Monday, June 30, 2008

Even more great places to eat in L.A....

I always think personal recommendations of cafes, bars and restaurants are really useful, so here are some helpful ideas if you want to eat out in West Hollywood or some other areas in L.A., whether you're visiting or a local who wants to try something different.

Even though our new pup, Cooper, is keeping us fairly house-bound at the moment we have been trying to get out as much as possible (so he gets used to being at home on his own for short periods of time) and so we found ourselves at some local West Hollywood eateries for dinner on both Friday and Sunday evening.


Basix - 8333 Santa Monica Blvd (corner of N Flores St), West Hollywood.
Basix Cafe WEHO
So on Friday night we found ourselves at the sister restaurant to tex-mex Marix on Flores St, Basix. The food here is not anything out of this world, but it's hearty fare and they do great thin pizzas, change their 'specials' regularly and can make a good Cosmo.

Unfortunately on Friday evening after being told the three of us would only have to wait 20 minutes, 40 minutes later we were absolutely famished and if Basix hadn't been so convenient to home, we would have tried elsewhere. To be honest on other occassions, we've had no problem getting a table, so I'm sure it was a one-off and once we were seated our food came fairly quickly.

I had a fantastic Broccoli 'Soup of the Day' (I'm told their tomato soup is consistently excellent and to be recommended too) and a BBQ chicken pizza which was very tasty and filling (I didn't need to it, but I persevered and felt stuffed afterwards regardless).

You can eat inside and outside at Basix. Plus there's an additional seating area outside on the sidewalk for those who want to get seated quicker and don't want to drink alcohol.

I'll also say that whilst our waiter was trying to be funny, I found him a bit odd and creepy, but maybe he just wasn't my taste!

Hugo's Restaurant - 8401 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood.
Hugo's Restaurant Santa Monica Blvd WEHO
Just up the street from Basix, we tried Hugo's Restaurant for dinner on Sunday. If you like healthy living, you'll love Hugo's. It's all about organic ingredients and sustainable living. They offer a variety of vegetarian and vegan dishes, but also have a large menu for meat eaters too!

We were greeted by friendly staff and our table service was good. I opted for a Gorgonzola & Walnut small salad to start (which had a nice variety of different leafy greens) and the special 'Coconut Curry Halibut', which was on a bed of garlicky spinach and was very filling, but seemed to lack any coconut taste.

I finished it all off with a chocolate cake sundae affair (with a choice of dark chocolate ice cream), which was truly massive and far too big for one person (but great to share)!

Overall I enjoyed the meal and would definitely go back, although some of my dining companions' dishes were slightly more hit or miss.

Taste - 8454 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood.
Taste restaurant on Melrose Avenue
Taste is a nice restaurant with a stylish decor and a mixed crowd. It was very popular the night we dined there, which made it a bit noisy and a bit hard for the three of us to talk, but the food was great.

I chose the pear and caramelized onion pizzetta (which also had Gorgonzola and walnuts on it) which was divine and then the seared Ahi Tuna fillet, which was a huge fillet and was equally gorgeous.

Everyone else had nice food too, but aside from the noise the only other comment I'd make is that the staff seemed overly attentive and we were asked by about four different people, multiple times during our meal how we were doing and was everything OK - it was slightly overkill.


Marmalade - 6301 W Third St, The Grove, Los Angeles.
Farmers Market
Found on the Farmer's Market side of The Grove, Marmalade is a great place for breakfast and lunch.

There's dining space indoors and outside. Even when it's chilly (not that often here in L.A.) there are patio heaters to make eating outside a pleasure.

Their food isn't any gastronomic discovery, but I did order a melt in the mouth, lightly seared Ahi Tuna Steak Sandwich which was equally massive and gorgeous.

It was perfect for a lunch before or after meandering around the shops at The Grove and the Farmer's Market.

Morels French Steakhouse & Bistro - 189 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles.

The menu and ambiance of Morels is a lot like a Cafe Rouge restaurant in the UK (maybe without as much sunshine though).

For lunch I had a lovely Salad Niciose and we had a nice friendly waiter, so it's a place to remember when shopping at The Grove.

There's seating inside (which is nice and air conditioned) and on the patio area (with cover from the rays if you're not a sun worshipper).

The Farm of Beverly Hills at The Grove - 189 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles.
The Farm near The Grove fountains
Pop in to The Farm to grab a quick bite to eat or a coffee. You can dine inside or on the patio area and watch the world go buy.

The big airy interior with its wonderful wooden beamed ceiling, is very cool and tranquil when you've been racing through the hordes of shoppers.

Right next to The Grove movie theatre, you can even take your Farm food in with you to watch your film!


Buddha's Belly - 7475 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles.

The food at Buddha's Belly is a fusion of Asian influences and flavours from Japan, Thailand, China, Korea and Vietnam and it's utterly yummy.

They don't take reservations for less than six people, so it was about a ten to fifteen minute wait, but it was well worth it.

Needing something spicy and a bit of comfort food, I opted for the special starter of shrimp and scallop rolls and for the Thai Green Curry Chicken with Jasmine Rice. Both were delicious and a bit of a tonic to the often 'bland' flavours of L.A. cuisine.

I would also highly recommend the The Alaskan Black Cod and Chilled Vietnamese Rolls I also sampled.

El Coyote Cafe - 7312 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles.
El Coyote Cafe
This Cal-Mexican restaurant is a bit of a Tardis inside, with gaudily decorated rooms that wind their way far back. It serves yummy, affordable food (and lots of it, all pretty much smothered in cheese and sauces).

They did win an AOL Cityguide Award for the best margarita's in L.A., so who am I to argue with award-winning drinks - it would be rude to not sample the local culture, so I tried a few of their blended margarita's.

We had a large rowdy bunch at the tables behind us, so it kind of marred our overall dining experience, but as long as you accept it's going to be buzzy in there you'll enjoy it. UPDATED 9/11/09: I recently learned that the owners of this restaurant supported the YES on Prop 8 vote, so another reason not to dine here.

Casita Del Campo - 1920 Hyperion Avenue, Silver Lake, Los Angeles.

You'll find this casual Mexican restaurant directly above the Cavern Club Theatre, so why not do what I did and eat there before popping along to see a show.

The food is OK (the usual Mexican fare), but it's not too pricey, plus the margarita's go down nicely too.

One small gripe, it's been a while since I've had to queue to use the Men's toilet in a restaurant.

I hope you've found this restaurant round-up useful. Here's some further dining ideas if you haven't found what you were looking for:

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Celebrity spotting in L.A. - the round-up of star spotting so far...

In honour of the fact we've nearly been living in L.A. for four whole months now (time flies doesn't it), I thought I'd do a round-up of all the celebrity sightings we've had to date.

Firstly a new sighting last week at Disney HQ in Burbank where Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was seen filming Disney's new Race to Witch Mountain movie.  I have to say I was a big fan of the original Escape to Witch Mountain and for me, news that The Rock is starring in the re-imagining is not a positive, but let's wait and see.

Another spotting by Charlie was the actor Jesse Bradford, from the film Flags of our Fathers and The West Wing TV series, who was seen at breakfast time at The Griddle Cafe on Sunset Blvd on Saturday 21 June.

Adrian Grenier, Jeremy Piven and the cast of Entourage celebrity sighting
Our best sighting to date has to be Adrian Grenier, Jeremy Piven and the cast of TV's Entourage show as I managed to capture them on camera on Santa Monica Blvd in West Hollywood on Sunday 1 June 2008.

Adrian Grenier and Jeremy Piven from TV's Entourage celebrity sighting
More recently on our visit to New York from 10 to 13 June we spotted Mario Lopez (Dancing with the Stars, A Chorus Line), Kevin Bacon (Footloose, Flatliners) and saw David Hyde Pierce ("Niles Crane" from TV Comedy Frasier) in the Broadway musical Curtains.

Hmm, I wonder why everyone likes Mario Lopez?

Of course who can forget my very first A-list celebrity sighting on these shores on the first weekend we arrived on Sunday 9 March 2008. 

Teri Hatcher spotted at Tommy Rays in Studio City
Teri Hatcher spotted at Tommy Rays in Studio CityWe spotted the lovely Teri Hatcherformer 'Bond girl' and star of ABC'Desperate Housewives, eating a late lunch at Tommy Rays in Studio City. 

On Saturday 24 May at my favourite L.A. cinema, the Arclight Hollywood, I spotte
d Robert Gant, star of the American version of Queer as Folk - he played Mikey's (Hal Sparks) hunky boyfriend, Professor Ben Bruckner.
Actor Robert Gant from Queer as Folk
Jack Mackenroth from season 4 of Bravo TV's project RunwayJD Jordan from Bravo TVs Workout season 3
Then I'm afraid to say the rest of my celebrity spotting has been decidedly Z-list, with a raft of reality TV 'stars', including personal trainer J.D. Jordan spotted at Target on 18 May and Skylab client and cabaret star Micah McCainboth from Bravo TV's Workout seen performing at the Cavern Club Celebrity Theatre in Silverlake on Saturday 21 June.  

Then finally Jack Mackenroth from the fourth season of Project Runway spotted at gay hangout Marix on 27 April. 

And that's the celebrity story so far folks.  

As I've become slightly house-bound with our new pup and my blog has become a bit of a 'Dog Blog' of late, I thought we could all do with a dose of Hollywood glamour to keep us going.

So until next time, I'll keep my eyes open and camera at the ready for the next big scoop...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Cooper's first ever bath - he made quite a splash...

Following his first visit to the vet yesterday and his first swimming lesson last Sunday, it was time for Cooper's first bath today, as he was losing his lovely puppy smell and getting a bit stinky.
Cooper - Bathtime BluesLet me tell you, it's harder washing a puppy on your own than you think.  I'm not sure who got wetter, me, Cooper or the bathroom.
Bath time for Cooper - getting wet
I can't say Cooper enjoyed bath time as much as he liked the swimming pool though.  He wasn't in the tub for long.  
Cooper is not sure he's enjoying his first bath
It's also much harder to take photos and wash your dog at the same time, so not the best quality shots.
Cooper having a sniff
In the bath tub
Exploring the tub
Bath time for Cooper
The end result was a slightly more fragrant pup (although still smelling like wet dog) and it was off to the roof deck to dry off in the sun for a few minutes, before Cooper started to chew all the plants, that is.
Are we done yet?
For the record, our lovely yellow labrador puppy is officially ten weeks old today - they grow up so quickly!
Am I dry yet?
Can I go now?
Looks like my break time is over, I feel someone nibbling my feet...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Our first visit to the vet...

We're just back from Cooper's first visit to his new vet and he was a very good boy.
Puppy Cooper sleeping between bench legs
We decided to choose a vet in Studio City after a recommendation from a friend, it's further away, but recommendations almost always prove to be worth more than taking a chance on the unknown.

We were about 15 minutes late after some slow traffic over Laurel Canyon, although not due to my driving I'll have you know.
Pup Cooper sleeping on his back
So Cooper was given a booster shot and a clean bill of health. He weighs 20lbs and 4oz, so we won't be carrying him for long.

So it's another shot in three to four weeks, then his rabies vaccination when he's sixteen weeks. So we have another six and a bit weeks inside the apartment before we can start taking him out and introducing him to the neighbourhood.
Pup Cooper sleeping legs akimbo
I hope you like the new pictures of Cooper sleeping - he's so cute.

You may also notice a little precaution we've taken with some silver duct tape on the join between the carpet and tile flooring. Let's just say he's chewing everything at the moment - EVERYTHING!

Funnily enough the vet mentioned that Labradors love to chew - oh, we know already.

Best get back to keeping an eye on him...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Our new home is taking shape...

We're finally starting to whip our new condo into shape and although we've put any major furniture purchases on hold for the foreseeable future, until Cooper grows out of his chewing phase, we've been trying to make the space our own.
Our outside spaceNew pots and plants for our roof terrace
Charlie has been working his wonders on the roof terrace with new pots and plants, plus a colourful parasol to provide some much needed shade (from Pottery Barn no less). 
Our roof deck is starting to take shape
Miraculously all our favourite paintings made it across the Atlantic in one piece and have helped make the condo feel more like home now that we've hung them in the apartment.

Here are two of our 'pear' still-life paintings which we discovered at the Affordable Art Fair in Battersea Park a couple of years ago.  They are both by Sarah Wood and we took an instant shine to them when we saw them - they are so captivating, although it's up for grabs if under £3,000 can be still be considered 'affordable'.

Affection painting by Sarah Wood who specialises in still life pears
Indian Summer...
Indian Summer by Sarah Wood
This is another, more dramatic piece which you can look at for hours and I find very calming - Rolling Sisters by Kate Van Suddese. 
Rolling Sisters by Kate Van Suddese
Plus a few other simple wall hangings to make us smile about the place - naked men and cute puppies, how can you go wrong with those!
Herb Ritts Black & White photography - can't imagine why I like this?!?
Boxer pups from our puppy calendar
On another note, it's been a big day for me on the road, as it's been my first day out driving in my car ON MY OWN!  I'm alive and everyone else is, so that's good.  I did have to go back to the car and double-check I'd left it in park and put the hand-brake on though, just in case.  There's no stopping me now.

More from Cooper tomorrow as we're off to the vets for the first time...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Cooper's new favourite place...

Not much to say today aside from the fact that Cooper is still waking us up in the middle of the night for the three P's - Piddles, Poops and Playtime.

Happy Cooper playing
Here are a few pictures of him in his new favourite place, the bookcase - we originally cleared all the bottom shelves to avoid any chewing incidents, not to become his new bed.
Cute Cooper in his favourite bookcaseContent with his bone in the bookcaseHe knows when you're taking a picturePlaying in his favourite bookcase
Plus here are some more Cooper swimming pool shots as they seem to be quite popular (well I love them anyway)!  
Jason in the Hollywood Hills helping Cooper take his first steps in the pool
I think he actually did more floating than swimming this time.
Fun in the poolFloating in the pool
I love this picture of Cooper and his daddy, Charlie.  It's taken just after Cooper came out of the pool for the first time and then immediately threw himself into the flower beds, the mucky pup
Charlie and our mucky pup Cooper - he's so cuteShake it off boy!
Shake it off Coop
He also seemed to be getting VERY friendly with his stuffed dog Fluffy yesterday, is that natural in one so young, he's only nine weeks old?

On that note, back to the puppy patrol...

Monday, June 23, 2008

A weekend of 'firsts'...

What a lovely weekend we've just had and it's been a weekend of 'firsts'.  Best of all was Cooper's first time in a swimming pool, which was amazing, but I've also been out and about to a Cabaret show, an L.A. bear bar and filling up my car at a gas station for the first time.
Cooper and Jason getting used to the pool
So we're getting into the swing of being puppy parents.  We're taking it in turns to go out and socialise whilst Cooper is still too young to be left for long periods, so Charlie went out for breakfast with some friends on Saturday morning, then it was my turn to pop out for some shopping at The Grove to get out of the house.
Lots of cooper cuddles and kisses - it was a magical moment
On Saturday evening charlie kept Cooper company whilst I accompanied some friends to the Cavern Club Celebrity Theatre in Silverlake to see 'A Tale of Two Sissies!', starring Micah McCain and Paul David. We had some dinner at the Mexican restaurant, Casita Del Campo, above the theatre beforehand and then headed down to see the show.  Funnily enough we'd booked the tickets way before we knew Cooper was on the way and Charlie would have really liked it with its mix of show tunes, comedic anecdotes and camp tomfoolery.  
cooper needing a helping hand up from the pool
Micah McCain is a bit of a Z-list celebrity in some circles and he's recently been starring in the third season of Workout on Bravo TV, as one of the clients in Jackie Warner's Sky Lab program.  I got to say 'Hi' to him after the show as some of our friends have know him for years.
Charlie and Cooper the mucky pup after flower bed fun
Afterwards we popped for a drink at Faultline, which is a gay leather bear bar on Melrose Avenue at Vermont.  Granted, not one of my usual haunts, but our moving to L.A. was all about experiencing new things.
Inflatable fun
Saturday night Cooper was a little tinker and kept waking Charlie and I up throughout the night.  He was also a little minx on Sunday morning when he woke up and his most chewy, hyper and playful yet.  However by the afternoon he'd changed into our little angel when we took him for his first swim.  
More Cooper kisses for Jason
I also did a bit more driving this weekend which was great and even filled up with petrol (I really must start saying gas I know, but it feels strange saying it) for the first time on the way over to the swimming pool.
Drowned rat Cooper
A work friend of Charlie kindly invited us round to their Hollywood Hills pad to meet Cooper and for us to use their pool.  It was fantastic as it was his first real time outdoors after being in our flat all week.  Luckily we're off to the vet this week for another of his puppy vaccinations, so soon we'll be able to take him outside even more.
Fantastic view of Downtown L.A. from the Hollywood Hills
He absolutely loved exploring a new house and garden with all the new sights and scents, although of course he piddled all over the floor within the first few minutes of being inside.  He was a bit apprehensive at first at going outside, especially as the sun was so intense and the stone floor was hot on his little paws, but as soon as we took the plunge he was in doggy heaven.
Tickle time for Cooper
Initially a bit unsure, after the most wonderful cuddles and 'Cooper kisses' in the pool he started to enjoy himself.  After his first dip, which cooled him down he had great fun rolling through the flower beds and in the dirt.  His mad five minutes was hilarious to watch.
Fun in the pool
Then after he'd calmed down again and saw us playing in the pool you could tell he wanted to come back in and he literally fell in.  The real breakthrough was when we got him on the inflatable raft and swam him around the pool - he loved that and even dived in after toys and his tennis ball.  Soon he'd taken to it like a duck to water - there'll be no stopping him next time.
Charlie & Cooper poolside
Spending the day around the pool was also heaven for us humans, as it's been so hot in L.A. the last few days.  It was such a pleasure and it felt like we were on holiday rather than another day in sunny California.
Cooper poolside
After our fabulous fun in the pool, I can't wait to take Cooper to the beach for the first time, as that's going to blow his little puppy mind.
jason & Cooper relaxing in the pool
Until next time folks...