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Holiday Survival Guide: Best New Bars of 2013

December 15th, 2013 No Comments

Mary Rambin Drinking a Beer

When I go home over the holidays, I like to try the new hot spots all of my friends have been raving about. Thrillist just posted this list that includes bars from all over the country.  They rarely lead me astray, so if you see your city, give their rec a shot!

Click here to read the full article with descriptions of each place.



    What you’re getting: A Jester King seasonal
    What you’re getting: The Dealer’s Choice

Cambridge, MA

    What you’re getting: A VFW Old Fashioned

Charleston, NC

What you’re getting: Moscow Mule with homemade Sweatman’s ginger beer


    What you’re getting: Fernet & Cola
    What you’re getting: Poipu Beach Boogie Board; a Treasure Chest (if you’re a baller and/or shot-caller)
    What you’re getting: Dusek Punch



Las Vegas

    What you’re getting: The Crucifix in a Deathhand; the Burning Bush

Los Angeles

    What you’re getting: A delicious gin cocktail
    What you’re getting: Any drink on their extensive list; the Toucan Sam if they’ve got it


    What you’re getting: Whatever sweet tiki drink Susie Hoyt wants to make you


    What you’re getting: The Pain Killer




    What you’re getting: The Honesty of Constant Human Error

New Orleans

New York

    What you’re getting: A beer you’ve never heard of before that’s probably been barrel-aged
    What you’re getting: Morning Reviver
    What you’re getting: Remember the Maine



San Diego

San Francisco

    What you’re getting: Eye of the Tiger
    What you’re getting: A crazy sour beer you’ve never heard of


Washington DC

    What you’re getting: The Daily Punch
    What you’re getting: James & the Giant; the Stroppy pale ale


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“Where should we go for dinner tonight?”

September 13th, 2013 No Comments

Thrillist iPhone App


When the questions arises, I can NEVER think of the places on my wish list or Eater’s hit list.  No more guessing or driving around in circles with the new Thrillist iPhone app.  

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What’s more important in a restaurant: food or scene? – RivaBella Review

August 23rd, 2013 No Comments



This is not a new question, but one you should consider if you want to go to the new LA hotspot RivaBella. IDG (the group that runs Boa and Katana) and chef Gino Angelini took over the old Hamburger Hamlet on West Sunset to open this Italian outpost for scensters.   The interior design and decor is quite beautiful.  Cozy but chic.  The people are arguably even prettier.  But the food is average at best. Coming from Gino Angelini of one of my all time favorite Italian joints (Angelini Osteria on Beverly), this was a huge disappointment.




Jonathan Gold from the LA Times says, “RivaBella makes ordinary Italian perfect.”  That’s a stretch for me, especially at those pricepoints.

Go for drinks; enjoy the scene; then get the H outta there.

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There’s a new one in your hood. Have you tried it?

June 27th, 2013 No Comments
The Smile, NYC

The Smile, NYC

It seems like every time I open a magazine, there’s a feature on an up-and-coming food city.  That city is different EVERY time.  Which means, it’s likely you live in one and have great new restaurants opening up around you….daily!  So it’s time to ditch the old favorites and try a new spot. (Randall, that means you too.)

I wrote about Baltimore and Oakland just last week.  Denver and Houston are topping lists.  Atlanta has been a breading ground since Richard Blais won Top Chef.  Chicago, with 2 years of Michelin ranking under its belt, has been killing it with foodies.

What I’ve found is that no matter where I am, I can always find an exceptional farm-to-table restaurant.  Pretty much in any neighborhood.  I know “Farm-to-Table” sounds cliche, but can we really argue with chefs who are using locally sourced produce and preparing it in a clean and creative way?

New FTT restos are popping up on every corner in NYC and LA.  Below are 2 in each I think you’ll enjoy as much as I do. All of them are small and super cute, which means a reservation is a good idea.  If there are only two of you, you could luck out on a bar seat (except at The Smile).

In the comments below, go ahead and share your new favorite so we can give it a shot if we’re in your neighborhood.  Thanks in advance!


(To see the images larger, click the pics.)



The Smile, 26 Bond Street, NYC, (646) 329-5836 thesmilenyc.com

Quick note: celeb scene is almost as good as the food.  If you do go to The Smile, say hello to Lily from my SoulCycle training group!


Tiny’s 135 West Broadway TriBeCa NYC (212) 374-1135 TinysNYC.com




Willie Jane, 1031 Abbot Kinney, Venice CA (310) 392- 2425 WillieJane.com



Rustic Canyon,1119 Wilshire Blvd Santa Monica, (310) 393-7050 RusticCanyonWineBar.com

Rustic Canyon has been around for a while, but they just changed chefs.  Now at the helm is Jeremy Fox who is was previously at the only vegetarian restaurant to ever earn a Michelin star (Ubunto in Napa).  We at there last night and his food was fresh and extraordinary.


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Old building, new Penthouse in Beverly Hills

April 11th, 2013 No Comments

Chef Josef Morphis

Mastro’s Steakhouse, an institution in Beverly Hills known for it’s butter-slathered steaks (my favorite in LA!), second floor piano lounge, and working girl bar, has decided it’s time to restore it’s youth.  Back in my college days, you would find twenty-something celebs, agents, and scensters dining there or downstairs begging for a reservation.  Such is no longer the case.  The average age of the male clientle seems to be about 60.  So one day, the boys said, let’s do something with our crowd and this third floor.

They built “The Penthouse,” a more modern fine dining experience with a small bar and spacious outdoor terrace.  The terrace is  the best part because it’s hard to find nice outdoor dining in Beverly Hills unless you go to a hotel.  Another bonus: they stay open until 1am if you’re looking for a nice late night snack.

Mastro's Penthouse

While you can get the entire Mastro’s menu there, Chef Josef Morphis (with me above) has gone to great lengths to offer you a lighter fare in his appetizer and sushi menu. Our group devoured two seafood towers of about 8 unique dishes. The tuna on some sort of Parmesan cracker you see below was awesome.  Prices are a little lower than the steakhouse, but not by much.  I’m sorry my picture sucks…

Mastro's Penthouse Sushi Tower

I guess I’ll have to go back and get a better one to replace it.  You’ll find me on the terrace, martini and hand. Feel free to join me!

(Full disclosure: Mastro’s offered a media discount in exchange for the review.)


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Food that will M.A.K.E. your day in LA

March 28th, 2013 No Comments

M.A.K.E. Lasagna

Looks good doesn’t it?!! This lasagna is actually better than good. It’s amazing. Mind-blowing. And meatless. And vegan. AND raw!

Don’t judge, don’t judge.

If I told you it was loaded in fat would that help you believe me that it’s delicious?

The fat comes from the macadamia nut cream and the pistachios. The rest is all raw, organic, refreshing, flavorful veg. That’s what you’ll find an entire menu of at M.A.K.E. - the latest venture from Matthew Keeney – in the Santa Monica mall (more on that later).

My friend and foodie extraordinaire Payman took me for dinner one night and I’ll be forever .


This, my friends, is one of the most extraordinary “cheese” plates you’ll ever devour. All made from nuts. Here we have chipotle (top), cheddar that tastes like a pepperoni (center), and truffle nut cheeses. They are so silky smooth you’d never guess they were derived from a crunchy nut. Those crackers on the side are Almond fennel flax (I believe). Thankfully they sell them by the bag so I could bring them home more to eat with guac and jam. All of those were gone by the end of the meal.

Bottom line, the food at M.A.K.E. is not for vegans, it’s for people who enjoy rich and delicious food because if I hadn’t told you what it was made of, you would have been perfectly happy to eat it and never ask. And yes, they do serve beer and wine; a solid selection I might add.

MAKE culinary institute

If you love the food as much as I do, you’ll be happy to know they have a Culinary Institute on-site where you can learn to make two vegan dishes and devour them with wine for $85. Considering their menu prices, that’s not a bad deal. Aside from the pricing, there are a couple of drawbacks to M.A.K.E. that I am going to ask you to overlook on your first visit.

M.A.K.E. restaurant

First of all, it’s located on the top level of the Santa Monica mall in “The Market:” a collection of really great cafe and deli style vendors offering their unique take on food. There’s a farm-to-table comfort food, fine cheeses, a wine shop, and a nice patio to enjoy it all. Honestly, the cafe style reminds me of one of those cut-out cafes you would find in a mall in Europe amongst designer clothes. I am always pleasantly surprised at home good the food is at those.


M.A.K.E. menu


The menu is a bit pricey but the food is wildly sophisticated (in a good way) to the point where I would like to be in a nicer setting. The decor of M.A.K.E. is right on target for San Fran chic, but looking out into The Market takes away from the ambiance. That being said, if they can start to pack the place with a solid crowd, you might not notice that much.

I say it’s a must for an LA local. Go with an open mind and enjoy the food. You WILL NOT be sorry. Then you’ll return to “The Market” for all of the other fun things it has to offer.

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Where to eat right now: Los Angeles cafes

September 14th, 2012 No Comments

Due to my stomach bug while in LA, I didn’t get out to eat very often. However, the new places we did hit up, which were all cafes, were well-rounded and exceptional in terms of food, decor, and service.  I don’t know if they will become staples, but I loved the experience at each.


Brentwood Country Mart (West LA)


Tucked behind the food court, Farm Stand is a market, deli, bakery, and farm-to-table cafe serving up sophisticated comfort food.  The guilt-free indulgence seems to good to be true until the bill comes and you realize you’ve just dropped $25 per person on brunch!  Absolutely worth it though :)




8I wanted to try out 800 Degrees, the new pizza joint in Westwood where you can customize your own pizza that cooks up in 60 seconds, but as you can see the entire neighborhood came out to do the same that night. Chef Anthony Carron takes great pride in his concept and pie that he claims is based on the original Neopolitan recipe.  Watch the video, it looks delicious!


West LA (below), West Hollywood, North Hollywood, Culver City, Downtown,



Due to the line at 800 Degrees, we ended up at Pitfire Pizza down the street.  Honestly, I’m happy we did.  They have a super fresh menu full of things other than pizza like the quinoa tar tar above.  I was a little disappointed the crust was traditional instead of thin, but overall their pies were delicious.  The craft beers on draft were a nice addition.  All around great concept for a casual night out!


West Hollywood



From the masterminds behind Hatfield’s (arguably one of the best restaurants in LA) comes a little sister cafe on La Brea, The Sycamore Kitchen.  Think Urth Cafe…but San Fran chic instead of LA rag-a-muffin.  Delicious pasteries, savory quiches, and a ricotta crepe dish that looks like heaven are just a couple things to make you salivate when you walk in the door.  I didn’t get a chance to try lunch, but as you can see from the menu above it looks as divine as breakfast.  They use Stumptown roasted beans, but unfortunately have not figured out how to serve them properly yet (why is it so hard for people to make a proper cappucino).  The service is a bit cold, but I think the hipsters and their mommy manager will warm up over time.

Everyone is also buzzing about John Rankin’s Lauren Hardware in Weho.  A la the Beauty & Essex entrance, this eatery looks like a hardware store.  But all the cool kids are flocking there for food and fun, so maybe we should follow their along.

Trust me, I know I’ve missed tons of great new places, so if you want to offer up recommendations, please do so in the comments.  I hope to make it back out there soon!

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The New LA Restaurant Hit List

March 22nd, 2012 No Comments

As much as I love the classics (original Katsuya, Trattoria Amici, Pace, Matsuhisa, Spago, Urth, Beverly Hills Hotel, Mozza etc.  See some of my recs here.), I am always seeking out the newest foodie hotspot when I visit Los Angeles.

A couple months ago I wrote “5 Restaurants That Get Locals Out of Los Angeles,” all of which would align with the “Casual City” section of bon appeitit’s  “So Cal, So Good: Where to eat now in LA” list from last month’s edition.

For descriptions of these joints, read the full article here.  I’ll just provide you with a quick list you can reference on the fly.

Casual City

  • Farmshop – Brentwood
  • ink.sack – Melrose
  • Baco Mercat – Downtown
  • GTA (Gjelina’s take out) – Venice
  • The Larder at Maple Drive – BH
  • Umacmicatessen – Downtown


  • Lomo Arigato – Food Truck
  • Osaka – Hollywood
  • Picca – West LA

Power lunch: Cafe Gratitute (like the one in Nor Cal)

Burger joint: Short Order – West Hollywood Farmer’s Market


  • Library Bar – Roosevelt Hotel Hollywood
  • Sunny Spot – Venice
  • Playa
  • Coppa d’ Oro

Also check out their “10 Ways To Do LA Like A Star” restaurant list.

(Photo of Picca above via)

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