Los Angeles – 3rd Full Day in Town

Greetings and salutations from a sweltering Los Angeles. As I write to you, it’s a sultry 92 degrees. AAC CPA and I are ensconced in a lovely poolside cabana at the luxurious L’Ermitage in the 90210 zip code. We just finished a delicious brunch at the hotel’s restaurant, Avec Nous, with our great friends, Amy and Julie, and it was great to to see them and catch up.

Avec Nous
Avec Nous at L’Ermitage

Last night we Ubered over to the Tower Bar in the Tower Arms Hotel up on the Strip. We’ve dined there many times over the years and have always been impressed by the swank factor. The place is gorgeous and very sophisticated, the bartenders and wait staff (all of whom do their jobs extremely well) could well have been sent over by Central Casting. And legendary maître d’ Dimiti Dimitrov has always run a tight ship.

Having said that – and while it was a mixed pleasure to return – I have to admit some surprise and disappointment at the lack of dress code in evidence last night. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not one who believes that you have to dress in white tie and tails to go out on a Saturday night. But the preponderance of sloppy t-shirts worn by diners of the male persuasion was just a bit of a shock. Whenever we’ve dined at Tower Bar in the past, the attire was nothing less than casual chic – and this place has been the epitome of chic for as long as I can remember.

The cocktails and dinner were as delightful as ever and our waiter, Ronnie, was perfect: there whenever you needed him, but allowing us to have an intimate dinner a deux.

So, would I recommend that you try out the Tower Bar next time you’re in town? Truth be told, the food is very tasty but, at that price point, there are other places that are just as good. We had looked forward to the whole experience: an elegant, swellagent evening up on the Strip, and our balloon was a bit deflated, sad to say.

Moving on:

Before meeting up with Amy and Julie, we decided to go for a little morning constitutional before it got too hot. Heading west on Burton Way, we ran into a Farmer’s Market just a few blocks from the hotel and decided to walk through to see how they do it out here. We loved it.

In addition to the multitudes of vegetable and fruit stands, there were several bread stands, one stand that specialized in dog food, and a small coterie of goats and turtles in yet another area.

While strolling through, we were beckoned by a very welcoming presence at a stand dedicated solely to balsamic vinegar. The welcoming presence, it turns out, is Chris-Ann, and she gave us a taste of many varieties of her wares: it was mind-blowing. I think my favorite may have been the chocolate flavored balsamic vinegar (to drizzle over your strawberries for a sumptuous dessert). We chatted with Chris-Ann for a good while and really enjoyed both the conversation and the samples.

Chris-Ann
The Gourmet Blends stand, overseen by the friendly Chris-Ann

Had we lived here, we would have walked away with a few bottles. As luck would have it, you (and we) can order the stuff online. Check it out for yourselves.

CULINARY TIP: Gourmet Blends

I know that you know that we’re back, yet again, at our favorite LA hotel, L’Ermitage, and I believe I posted a picture the other day. But that pic was a cheat, not our room. So I thought you might be interested to see our actual digs:

Erm - 01
Our bedroom and sitting area
Erm - 05
Dressing area – how about all those mirrors?
Erm - 02
Bathroom – part one
Erm - 03
Bathroom – part two

Yeah, this place is really cool beans. You might consider giving it a try next time you’re in town.

TRAVEL TIP: L’Ermitage

And now, gentle readers, it’s time for me to cool down. Then we have to think about packing before heading out for our last dinner in town: El Comprade. 

Tomorrow: Yountville and the wine country!

Los Angeles – 1st Full Day in Town

Greetings, gentle readers, from the City of Angels. We arrived yesterday afternoon and, so far, are having a wonderful time.

Our trip in from the airport yesterday afternoon was uneventful, except that one can no longer travel on the freeway, as they have all turned into parking lots. But we know how to get around and where all the shortcuts are. Of course, so did our taxi driver, so all was well.

We’ve stayed at L’Ermitage annually, probably going back at least 10 – 12 years. It’s always a pleasure to return here, almost like our southern California home: perfect location, comfortable surroundings, great staff.

The hotel had a major renovation last year so, after we settled in, we went snooping around. Almost every element of the hotel has been rethought. The guest rooms have been totally redone from scratch and are both practical and gorgeous.

Here are a few pix of our room:

L'Ermitage Room
Our bedroom and sitting area

L'Ermitage Dressing Room
The dressing room and closet area
L'Ermitage Bathroom
The bathroom

Yes, we’re very comfortable here.

Downstairs, there’s a new restaurant, Avec Nous, where we take our breakfasts which, thanks to the AmEx FHR program, are included (or, at least, we get a $60 per day credit). Thanks, AmEx! Thanks, Veronica!!

Avec Nous
Avec Nous, L’Ermitage’s new restaurant

Avec Nous Bar
The fancy bar at Avec Nous

We’re also very fond of the rooftop pool and cabanas at the hotel. It’s usually pretty quiet and they’ve installed a bar adjacent to the pool so, should you become thirsty, you’ll find instant gratification. Also, there’s a food menu, should you feel peckish. 

L'Ermitage Rooftop Pool
L’Ermitage’s rooftop pool and cabanas at sunset – nice, right?

Anyhoo, after we finished our tour of the new and improved L’Ermitage, it was time to settle down for awhile, a/k/a passing out for an hour or so. It had been a long day and we were looking forward to our first dinner in LA.

Following a refreshing nap, we were ready to clean up and head out. Thanks to the amazing concierge team at the hotel, we were taken in the hotel town car to Sotto, over on West Pico. This place does some serious southern Italian food. It’s located in a so-so area and it’s underneath something else, so it’s not unlike eating in someone’s ground level apartment, only much better.

Sotto - AAC
AAC CPA arrives at Sotto

We were cordially welcomed and escorted to our table. Our waiter, Angela, took incredibly good care of us. Because I’d checked it out beforehand, we knew that we wanted to start with the Chickpea Panella, sort of mashed-up chickpeas and then deep-fried and topped with shavings of pecorino cheese. It was the perfect compliment to the icy cold Negronis we had requested.

Following, we had a 1st course of charred broccolini and spicy pork meatballs which was served over a salad of mixed greens and salata ricotta.

Charred Broccolini
Charred broccolini
Sotto - Pork Meatballs
Spicy pork meatballs

We then decided to share a primi, in this case a delicious paccheri (a tube pasta) in a sweet and spicy pork ragu with rapini and – get this – fennel pollen. The pasta was perfectly al dente, and the flavors were intense.

About this time, we started in on a glass of the most ruby red Montalpulciano, which was a perfect compliment to the pasta and the next course: the guanciale pizza, made with house-cured pork cheek and ricotta and cooked to perfection in Sotto’s wood-burning oven.

Sotto - Pizza
Guanciale Pizza

We had hoped to save room for some made-at-the-last-minute cannoli, but we just couldn’t – you know what I mean. So, our wonderful waiter, Angela, brought us a little box, which was filled with complimentary cannoli, for a late-night snack. How great is that?

Remember how I said that we opted not to rent a car for the first time ever in LA? Yes, friends, we decided to go all 21st century and just Uber our way around town. And it worked pretty darn well, although we almost got into the wrong Uber at the restaurant, which was waiting for someone else. It all worked out in the end however, and we returned to L’Ermitage and literally fell into bed. It had been one long day.

This morning, we were up at a reasonable hour, made ourselves presentable, went down to breakfast and, once again, hopped into the hotel town car, this time bound for LACMA (the Los Angeles County Museum of Art) to see a special exhibition: Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium. For those of you too young to remember (and you know who you are), Mapplethorpe was an extremely talented and even more extremely controversial artist in the 1970’s and 80’s. Even after he died of AIDS in the late 1980’s, controversy raged around him. If you don’t believe me, just google Jesse Helms and Robert Mapplethorpe and see what pops up. It’s utterly fascinating.

LACMA
Banners proclaiming the Mapplethorpe exhibit at LACMA
LACMA - AAC
AAC CPA goes to LACMA and checks out the street lamp exhibit

The Mapplethorpe exhibition is at LACMA through July 31st, and we’d highly recommend it. PS. It’s not for the young ones.

CULTURE TIP: Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium

By coincidence, HBO has been broadcasting a documentary about Mapplethorpe, entitled “Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures”, which I encourage you to check out. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s extremely rewarding.

CULTURE TIP: Maplethorpe: Look at the Pictures

After all that culture, we were ready for some lowdown activities, so we got ourselves over to The Grove, most particularly so that we could drop into See’s Candies, which is an obsession of ours’. If you’re never sampled See’s, you’re really missing out. It’s like an old-fashioned candy shoppe, and the first thing that happens when you walk in is that they give you a free sample which, as they say, gets the juices flowing. We walked out with over 2 pounds of the stuff.

Although See’s is based throughout California, it’s also available online. If you’re a chocoholic, please check it out, but don’t say I didn’t warn you: this stuff is ADDICTIVE!

FUN TIP: See’s Candies

Then it was time to Uber back to the hotel, change into casual attire, and hit the roof deck pool and cabana. There was an available cabana in the shade, so we snuggled in, ordered a turkey panini, and now we’re just lazing about as I write this blog entry to you.

AAC - Cabana
AAC CPA devours the New York Times from his rooftop cabana

Tonight we’re having a very special culinary experience at Maude. I’ll close for now, but report back to you very soon all about it – it’s going to be the cherries, I’m sure.