Kathy Leonardo

Kathy Leonardo  Photo:Gregory Dahl

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LA Art Party Newsletter

LAArtParty is an arts and entertainment website. Established in 2010, it is an online go-to guide for what's happening in and beyond the LA area - this includes dining, travel and more.

Founded by journalist, and "Blues Mama" Kathy Leonardo (a longtime performer), the campy site has an unusual slant which will keep you entertained. Leonardo has been writing for the past 15 years about various subjects for the Huffington Post, THRIVE GLOBAL, LA Weekly, etc.

Each month the LAArtParty staff, led by Kathy Leonardo decides which events will be featured. Posted at noon on the Thursday prior to the last week of the month, LAArtParty.com features the Top Ten Art Parties, plus other fun events each month. VIP subscribers find out ONE week prior to the public and receive discounts and invites to VIP parties throughout the year.

See Contact Page to find out how to become a VIP subscriber so you don't miss any more great ART Parties!! See Contact/Rates Page to find out how submit and promote your own events!

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Mayor Garcetti

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Former Mayor Villaraigosa, Levitated Mass LACMA

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Pulitzer Prize Winning Food Critic, Jonathan Gold

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Bernie Taupin

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Actor, Martin Mull

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Herb Alpert

 Graham Nash

Graham Nash

Ed Moses

Larry Bell

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John Van Hamersveld

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Stuart Kusher

Peter Alexander

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Shag

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David Trulli

Ellwood T. Risk

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Brooke Harker

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Sona Mirzaei

Jules Muck

LA ARTSHOW-2012

LA Art Show



On site with LA Art Party's Video team

First Fridays on AK

view on youtube.com

”Magic Circles” at MOCA

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 Depena Productions
    Video Partner

Watch the Oscars at Upper West this Sunday!!

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Scuba Divers Unite to Honor our Oceans!

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Image: Turtle at Karpata dive site, Photo by Richard Bilow

Scientific analysis shows that the future of our planet depends on the health of our oceans. Global climate change, warming oceans, and bleaching of our coral reefs are just a few of the harsh realities that our oceans are struggling to cope with. Careless development and unsustainable fishing practices are also stressing our oceans to the point of no return.

What started out as a trip to rejuvenate from a stress-filled life of deadlines soon turned into an awe-inspiring educational awakening. It all began when I decided that I needed a break to re-charge and disconnect from my busy lifestyle in LA. A trip to Bonaire in the Dutch Caribbean was an obvious choice. Bonaire is widely known as one of the world's best and easiest places to dive, so it was an appropriate place for me to return to diving...after some ten years away from one of my favorite activities.

I recently wrote an article for THRIVE GLOBAL about the benefits of un-plugging and re-connecting with one's inner peace. See my article titled Running Away Never Felt So Good!!
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Image: File fish on the Buddy house reef;
Photo by Richard Bilow

I decided to stay at Buddy Dive Resort, which hosts a mandatory lecture each week for all divers intending to explore the coral reefs. Here, I learned about the Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF) via Augusto Montbrun, manager of Buddy Dive operations, and Laura Summers, dive master/instructor. CRF is an important and increasingly effective nonprofit organization which helps to develop other nonprofits such as Coral Restoration Foundation Bonaire. CRF Bonaire works to restore the reefs around this specific island.

The next day, Summers led us on a preliminary dive at the house reef right off the Buddy Dive dock as part of our refresher course. Later in the afternoon, we were taken by boat for an amazing dive at Klein Bonaire, a small uninhabited island just across the water from the resort.
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Image: Coral diversity at Klein Bonaire dive site; Photo by Richard Bilow

Richard Bilow, a professional underwater filmmaker/artist (and my travel companion) raved about this particular dive site. It was perfectly suited for his needs. Bilow is producing an underwater video installation using 4K footage designed to make viewers feel like they are one with the sea. "Bonaire is one of my favorite destinations for underwater photography," explained Bilow, "because the island is filled with easily accessible dive sites and you can dive almost every site from shore. When Laura took us to Klein Bonaire, I was so blown away by the shallow zone we swam through on our way back to the boat, that I had to change my production plans."

Summers comes from a family of divers and has worked around the world in the dive industry. In addition to working as a Buddy Dive instructor, she also volunteers for Coral Restoration Foundation Bonaire. She is the project leader for the Buddy Dive team and oversees Buddy Dive's nursery of twenty-three coral "trees" as well as the restoration sites. She also coordinates daily Coral Restoration activities for the staff at Buddy Dive. "I love being involved in an environmental project where you can see that it is working right before your eyes," explained Summers. "To plant a coral and watch it grow into a habitat over time is so inspiring and gives me hope for the future of our oceans."

There are a total of five nurseries around the island, and several dive shops share the responsibilities related to their management and care. Volunteers with CRF Bonaire include the staff of Harbour Village, Wanna Dive, and Gooodive, among others.
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Image: Photo courtesy of CRF

Discovering the work of CRF was fascinating and unexpected. I wanted to know more about the organization, so I reached out to Ken Nedimyer, founder and president of the original nonprofit and flagship company, Coral Reef Foundation. Nedimyer was living and diving in the Florida Keys when he saw the reefs dying and wanted to do something about it. What started out as helping his daughters with their 4-H project evolved into the idea of growing and replanting enough corals to actually turn the clock back and restore coral reefs. "To do this, I knew I was going to need help, so I decided the non-profit model would be the best way to achieve this vision. In founding CRF, I wanted to create a company that could develop effective and efficient ways to restore corals reefs and then train others to do the same thing throughout the world."

Nedimyer has seen his dream come to fruition while helping other CRF organizations set up in locations such as Curacao, Mustique, Colombia, etc. He cited CRF Bonaire as an incredible example and acknowledged the team at Buddy Dive for all its hard work. "I like to say that what we are doing at CRF is 'selling hope and buying time.'" He went on to say that in addition to needing funding to continue supporting CRF's ongoing work and to expand into new areas, qualified people are also needed to get involved in the process and help continue building a strong international network of self-sustaining, independent businesses, focused on coral reef restoration like CRF Bonaire.
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Image: Photo courtesy of CRF

There are currently over 9,000 corals included in Bonaire's nursery project - all in various stages of growth. Over 8,000 corals to date have been transplanted to the reef. Summers gave us an underwater tour of the Buddy Dive nursery. It was quite inspiring to witness the growth of the corals and see the restoration first hand.

Project Coordinator Francesca Virdis has worked for Coral Restoration Foundation Bonaire since it started in 2012 and was involved in the initial nursery set-up. She has been diving for over twenty-five years. "Diving in a restoration site, swarming with colorful fish seeking shelter in the thriving branches of the growing corals, is something that will make everyone happy."
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Image: Elkhorn coral, one of the two types of coral being grown by CRF Bonaire, Photo by Richard Bilow

Summers and Virdis both agreed that they love working with CRF Bonaire. Summers added, "I take incredible pride in my work with the corals, but I am most proud of my students who show up just to give back. I just hope that we can impact enough people so that one day we won't have the need to restore."

The public can help CRF Bonaire by donating directly or they can adopt a single coral for $50, a tree for $500, or a coral thicket for $1000. See bottom of this article for websites.

In addition to boat diving and the exceptional diving at the resort, one can head to popular dive sites on the north end of the island such as Karpata,1000 Steps, and Oil Slick Leap. On the south end, some favorite dive sites include: Hilma Hooker, Tori's Reef, and Margate Bay. There are over sixty easy-to-reach dive sites and nearly every spot holds potential for a diver to see the wide variety of sea life found in this part of the world. I personally prefer boat dives, and Rock Pile off the south side of Klein Bonaire was one of my favorites.
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Image: A school of goat fish at Buddy House Reef; Photo by Richard Bilow

One afternoon, we went for a couple of shore dives with VIP Diving, a top-notch dive business with a highly personalized approach to customer service. Founded in 2009, VIP Diving was created by dive master and professional guide Bas Noij who moved to Bonaire in 2006. An avid traveler, he and his wife fell in love with the island and decided to make it their home. "We chose Bonaire because of the relaxed pace of life, good weather year round, and fantastic nature." Noij is currently on the board of BONHATA (Bonaire Hotel and Tourism Association) and STINAPA (National Park Foundation).

We had a great time diving with our VIP guide - Jossue De Palm, a young dive master who has been diving since he was sixteen. Jossue drove us up north for some fantastic shore diving, helped us manage all our gear, and then took us for lunch at Posada Para Mira. We enjoyed fresh Wahoo and Cod with plantains and rice. Iguana soup was available, although I did not partake. Then it was back to another fantastic dive site called Tolo, where we started a slow drift north to our exit at Karpata.
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Image: Trumpet Fish at Buddy House Reef, Photo by Richard Bilow

If you are looking for a great diving destination with gentle currents, clear water, and lots of sea life, Bonaire should be at the top of your list. It's a perfect choice for novice divers to perfect their skills, while experienced scuba enthusiasts come back year after year and leave the island with beautiful photographs to share with family and friends. Those who love the freedom and simplicity of snorkeling also return to the island year after year to marvel at the sea life.

Here are some helpful links about Bonaire and CRF. Bonaire National Marine Park is managed by STINAPA  http://STINAPA.org https://coralrestoration.org  http://www.crfbonair.org
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Night Divers returning to Buddy Dive dock; Photo by Richard Bilow

Restaurant Review: Hyde Sunset Kitchen + Cocktails

Hyde Sunset Kitchen + Cocktails is located in West Hollywood, just above the bustle of the Sunset Strip. The hotspot starts to stir after 9pm, attracting a later crowd for its California cuisine. Chef Chris Crary (the executive chef of Hyde Sunset Kitchen + Cocktails) started working for SBE two and a half years ago. We recently met at The Taste (an annual food event presented by the LA Times and CITI). He invited myself and my photographer to review his restaurant.

We didn't have a lot of time, as we were rushing off to cover another event, but I did manage to squeeze in one cocktail. I chose the Porn Star Martini, which featured Absolut Elyx, Licor 43, passion fruit purée, simple syrup, Madagascan vanilla, and Prosecco. An easy to drink martini - perhaps too easy - I could have sipped down five without even realizing it. I especially loved the Prosecco on top which tickled my nose as it buzzed around the classic martini glass.hydeSunset-Bilow-dishes-72dpi-550
Then, the appetizers started appearing. Seared ahi tuna, was served with celery, radish, heirloom tomato, and avocado. The tuna was pink, its edges encrusted with ground sesame seeds. The fried chicken sliders on butter biscuit with mustard kimichi honey aioli were heavenly. Peach + Barrata sported an unusual combo - peaches and arugula with peach mustard, balsamic, and pretzel crouton. The Grilled Smoky Cauliflower offered a whole new take on the vegetable. The roasted tomatoes combined with salami aoli, walnut, and capers brought it to the next level.

Then, Chef Chris brought out two of his most popular dishes. Torchio Bolognese is a basic chicken Bolognese, with parmesan…a simple dish with a big bold flavor.

Obviously the highlight of the menu, I cannot give high enough praise about the Local Black Cod, which was beautifully placed on miso cauliflower purée. Kumquat and puffed rice were added accents to this dish. The cod was cooked perfectly, flaked to the fork, and simply melted in your mouth.

hydeSunset-Bilow-blackcod-72dpi-550We were just about too full to eat dessert, but we managed to squeeze in a bit more. A chocolate coffee cake topped with almond crumble featured caramel sauce, chocolate pudding, and two luscious scoops of spiced strawberry ice cream. Chocolate chunks were randomly scattered on top of the dessert with sweet caramel dots. It was a beautiful marriage of mousse and coffee cake. From start to finish, it was an unbelievable meal.

Crary has a lot on his plate. He is currently overseeing the opening of two additional establishments - a night club called Nightingale Plaza and the James Hotel - all this with a four month old baby at home. Not sure how he does it all, but keep doing it Chef Chris - your cuisine is amazing!!!

Hyde Sunset Kitchen + Cocktails, 8117 West Sunset Blvd., LA, 90046; 323 940-1650; http://www.sbe.com

Boardwalk 11...More than just Karaoke!

It was a busy Tuesday at the LAArtParty office. Each Monday,July1-Boardwalk11-HH-LAAPCrew we notoriously argue about which events to choose that week out of the 30-50 we receive weekly…it’s gotten way out of hand. That particular week…we were still arguing about which event would be the Pick of the Week...and it was already a Tuesday afternoon. We had already moved on to the planning of the layout stage for the week's post...while a certain staffer (you know who you are), could not let our POW choice stand.

My videographer, Steve DePena stopped in and somehow seduced us all into going to Boardwalk 11 to sing karaoke. Now as many people know, I’ve been singing all my life and am still performing in about four bands, but karaoke is different (its actually much harder). I’ve always been a bit shy about doing it.

I sJuly1-Boardwalk11-HH-wingsaid to Steve…”It’s Tuesday night, are you sure they are having karaoke tonight”…”Yes,” he sighed, ”they have it every night. He added that Boardwalk 11 also has a great happy hour. SOLD! Mama likes to eat for a good price...and it sounded like a great way for our crew to let off some steam. Next thing I know we are headed to Boardwalk 11 in West LA to sing for our supper. 

It was a Tuesday night (early evening), and I was stunned as I watched the place fill up … singers were signing up, customers were bustling in and the restaurant became alive. Apparently this is THE place to do Karaoke. After hanging by the bar, we finally slumped in a booth started ordering more drinks (wine for Mama) at very nice happy hour prices and then we ordered a barrage of food from the HH menu.
 
WeJuly1-Boardwalk11-HH-maccheese-eggrolls just shared a bunch of different items…spinach dip, chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, and chicken wings. I think we ordered every flavor (yes we were hungry) - sweet chili sesame, honey BBQ sauce and spicy buffalo…really tasty. One more item, was the hit of the night - Mac and Cheese Eggrolls - these tasty buggers were amazing (though not so good for my thighs). Who would think to wrap mac and cheese in a wonton and deep fry it? It was served with buttermilk ranch dip…so good we ordered a second.

July1-Boardwalk11-HH-mozzarellasticksBy this time the wine had kicked in and I actually got up to sing…not once but twice. Steve got up several times and crooned like Sinatra. It was pretty impressive, of course it could have been that happy hour wine I so enjoyed that made him sound astounding. Needless to say, after a long day, our LAArtParty team enjoyed a much needed fun night out.

Head to Boardwalk 11 for a great time. Happy hour runs Monday thru Fridays but you can do Karaoke every day of the week. Boardwalk 11 is located in West LA - 10433 National Boulevard, LA, 90034; 310.837.5245; http://boardwalk11.com/

Santa Monica Eatery, Lula Cocina Mexicana Inspired by Chef Lula Bertran!

California is home to an incredible amount of great restaurants ...If you love mexican food, head to Lula Cocina Mexicana. This past July (2016) the restaurant celebrated twenty five years. Although Geraldine Gilliland, owner of Lula Cocina Mexicana, is originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, she was always intrigued with Mexican cuisine. "One day, as I was casually flipping through the latest edition of Bon Appétit magazine, I stumbled upon an article that profiled the best female Mexican chefs of the time, including Lula Bertran, explained Gilliland. "Now I’ve always had a lot of moxie, so I just went ahead and called up the editor and asked her which of these chefs she would recommend to teach me true Mexican cooking. Without missing a beat, she told me to call Lula. The next thing I knew, I was standing in a farmers market in Mexico City with Lula herself, picking out produce, touring the city, and learning to cook in her home!"
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Photo courtesy of Lula Cocina Mexicana, Beef Fajitas

It was during this first trip to Mexico City that Gilliland's vision for the restaurant first began to truly come alive. "I had fallen madly in love with the sights, sounds, and colors of Mexican culture and knew I would incorporate that beautiful levity into the restaurant, mimicking the designs of my favorite architects Luis Barragon & Ricardo Legoretta." Gilliland's husband, Theodore Lonsway, owned an antique store at the time. "Together, with our vision - and the help of a dear friend and famous local architect, Michael Bedner - we designed our dream restaurant, on a shoestring budget, of course!"

Some of its most popular dishes include Fajitas, Baja Fish Tacos, Shrimp Ceviche, Tiger Shrimp Tostada and lots more.

Outside of the restaurant business, Gilliland is passionate about the protection and rehabilitation of abused and abandoned animals; a cause for which she frequently hosts and produces charitable activities and events. In 2011, Gilliland launched Chiquita’s Friends, a non-profit dedicated to this cause and in it’s honor, all of the proceeds from this book will go towards the mission of helping abused and neglected dogs in the Los Angeles area. Find out more, on the nonprofit's website -  http://chiquitasfriends.org/

For additional info on Lula Cocina Mexicana, visit http://lulacocinamexicana.com

Wine Tasting: A Quick Shot up the Coast!

Busy lives can create havoc on any relationship. Fortunately, my partner and I have found a simple and exciting way to cope with this challenge, and you can easily do the same. Setting aside a small amount of time to recharge and reconnect with one another has become a priority. Sometimes it's as simple as turning off your phones for a few hours and taking a walk around the block or a picnic on the beach. Taking this one step further, little excursions will do wonders.
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Photo by Richard Bilow

Since I am a lover of wine (the designated drinker), and my partner is a lover of nature and photography (the designated driver), we agreed on a quick two day/one night trip up the coast. I happen to be a big fan of Inception Wines, so I reached out to founder/owner Jonathan Hirsh, who partnered up with a local winery (Terravant), just off the 101 in Buelton, in the Central coast of California.

Big things are happening for Inception...it has been picked up by Southern Wines and Spirits of California and Delta Air Lines will be serving its Central Coast Pinot Noir in their Delta One (First Class) service, starting in mid-September as a global placement.

Pho2016-April-Winereview-Terraant-JoePadillo-JonathanHirschto by Richard Bilow, Joe Padilla (left) and Jonathan Hirsch (right)

Hirsch and Joe Padilla (VP of sales at Terravant), have teamed up for the past couple of years and have a brotherly admiration for one another. It was interesting to watch as they joked back and forth while taking us on a tour of the winery.

"Wine is a pure celebration of life and nature." said Hirsch. "Terravant was the final catalyst for me to begin Inception. It is clearly one of the most state of the art wine making facilities in California -- I felt that this was the right place for me the moment I walked in. Joe has been a great partner to work with. The needs of a small and growing brand require great patience from a great leader and Joe is certainly that." https://www.inceptionwines.com/

We sat down to an amazing meal with Hirsch and Padillo at Terravant Winery and Restaurant, with a view of the facinating production facility. Created in 2008, the restaurant offers a wine wall featuring over fifty wines provided by twenty plus wineries. It was like being a kid in a candy store – so many delicious wines to choose from. The cuisine was excellent as well.

Terravant-winerypizza-R-BilowPhoto by Richard Bilow

We previewed a wine currently being created right there at Terravant. It was a smooth lovely red blend paired perfectly with our appetizers. We started off with a Burrata grape appetizer (Crostini with thyme-roasted grapes, local honey), - delicious. We also enjoyed a beet salad (Avocado, pistachio, goat cheese, mixed greens, citrus vinaigrette). Who would think a beet salad could taste this good? – this dish definitely changed my mind. We continued our feast with additional appetizers...Tuna Tartare (Chipotle aioli, mango, avocado, toasted sesame seeds and cucumber) along with dates wrapped with bacon...both incredible. Of course, we enjoyed several tastes of Inception's Pinot Noir. My favorite was a tantalizing 2012 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir, which was a perfect pairing with the farmer's market pizza. This popular menu item changes daily (ours featured bacon and fresh veggies) and a prosciutto and pear pizza (Seasonal pear, Berkshire heirloom prosciutto, truffle oil, Gorgonzola, and balsamic reduction). The meal was exquisite. If you find yourself in this area – be sure to stop for lunch or dinner here. http://www.terravant.com/

Moving on from our great experience at Terravant, we headed north towards Los Olivos for a whole different wine tasting experience. The drive from Buellton to Los Olivos takes one through the town of Solvang, a charming Pennsylvania Dutch-inspired town which buzzes with the spirit of Christmas (my most favorite holiday) all year long. This time around, Solvang was not on our agenda, so we only stopped for a quick look at the quaint shops filled with trinkets and gifts and got right back on the road.

A2016-April-wine-KaenaWine-MikaelSigouin-byKLbout 15 minutes past Solvang, we arrived at our next detination, Los Olivos. Our brief stop in Solvang set us back a little, but we managed to stop at a few more wineries later in the day. One really fun one was Kaena, run by Mikael Sigouin, or as he is affectionately called by the locals - the Grenache King. He offered us a full range of wines.

Photo by Kathy Leonardo, Mikael Sigouin, the Grenache King

Speaking to an entire room of wine lovers, he recounted the story of why his love of wine and his wife, Sally were parallel. "Grenache is very feminine varietal in many ways, said Sigouin. "It's a very difficult grape to farm and produce at a high quality level, so it takes amazing patience in the vineyard and winery, many times walking on eggshells to get it just right. So Grenache like a woman needs to be treated with ultimate respect.  If you have the patience to do it all right, she will be your ultimate reward.

Like many small wineries in the area, Kaena mostly sources from Tierra Alta Vineyard and Larner Vineyard in the Ballard Canyon AVA. Created in 2001, the brand was named Kaena (which is a shortened version of the owner's given name) a strapping handsome warm-hearted Hawaiin raised in Oahu who has an affinity to Grenache. "I guess what sets me apart from large scale wineries is that I'm a one-man show, doing it all when it comes to production," explained Kaena. "Every decision was made by me throughout the process from vineyard to bottle and beyond. I feel very torn apart at times but I'm a control freak when it comes to my wines and brand."

P2016-April-Winetrip-ByronWines-JasonVillaloboshoto by Kathy Leonardo, Jason Villalobos (left) and the staff at Byron Wines

Next, we hit Byron Wines, where I met Jason Villalobos who served up several delicious reds. At this point in the day, I had to prioritize my wine choices. I enjoyed several Pinot Noirs. My favorite was the 2012 pinot noir Drizzel Barrel (the most concentrated juice of the barrel) which has an intense layered flavor of blackberries with a smoky savory finish.

By this time my taste buds were a bit clouded, so we decded to call it a day and headed further north.

Phot2016-April-Hotel-Baywood-Inno by Richard Bilow, the Baywood Inn Bed and Breakfast

We drove through to Los Osos and checked into the Baywood Inn Bed and Breakfast. It was a breathtaking respite...armed with some added amenities that one does not always expect...a fireplace, coffee, granola bars, microwave popcorn, Neutrogena face soap, etc. We both slept like babies and then enjoyed a Mexican style breakfast before heading out to our next adventure - this day devoted to my partner's love of nature and photography.

Although the morning was shrouded with a thick layer of coastal fog, we decided to take a ride to Morrow bay in search of the legendary otters who put on a show each day.

2016-april-travel-moro-bay-otter-richard-bilowPhoto by Richard Bilow, Morrow Bay

Birdwatching was an added benefit to our outing and we tested our rock balancing skills as we hopped from rock to rock crouching and scrambling to catch a better view of the adorable otters. We stopped at the waterfront and picked up some salt water toffee and caramel popcorn. As we headed towards Los Olivos we noticed the sun decided to make an appearance - perfect for my partner's photography.

The sun lit up the local wildflowers creating a luminous iridescent yellow....be sure to save time (from 2-3 pm) to take advantage of a great photo op. We lingered in Los Osos as we continued to stop time and time again to take photos heading south to Shell Beach. Shell beach is easily accessible from the 101. Finding coastal access points allowed for a spontaneous picnic in a romantic setting. The coastal views were mesmerizing. Old shell beach offered even more impressive water views, although we were warned by a local about the eroding cliff side. The photo ops continued here with sweeping coastal views.
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Photo by Richard Bilow

Just a short hour later we were compelled to linger back to our busy chaotic lives in Los Angeles feeling relaxed, recharged and ready to take on the world. Get out there and take advantage of a weekend away...enjoy the weather, the wine, the cuisine and more of the Central coast...just a couple of hours away from LA and definitely worth it.

Hotel Review: The Hermosa Hotel (Catalina Island)

casinoCatalina has long been a great summer vacation destination for many Los Angeles residents and tourists alike.

See Image: courtesy of LA Art Party

A one - two night stay can work wonders on eradicating the stress of one's busy life, so I was quick to say yes when my boyfriend suggested we take advantage of a rare leap year special offered by the Hermosa Hotel.

A one night stay was $29 plus $29 each way per person on the Catalina Express, a fairly large fast-moving boat which transfers visitors from one of three ports near Los Angeles to the island. My boyfriend and I left out of Long Beach for our quick getaway to the Catalina, saving over $100 on our great escape. When planning your trip, do forget to factor in the $17 per day cost of parking at the boat terminal.

hermosabalconyApproximately 2 hours after leaving Long Beach we arrived at the Hermosa Hotel. At first glance the room was simple, clean, but small. Next we noticed the bathroom was situated between two rooms. It was a shared bathroom.

Little did we know we would soon be sharing something else. Our room was located in the front of the building on a busy street. Just outside the room was a shared balcony, accessible to all of the Hermosa hotel guests. It turns out that the Hermosa commonly hosts large groups of scuba divers, so the shared balcony is great for those groups.

Since we had just gotten off of the boat to Catalina along with several other hotel guests, we were immediately taken aback by seeing two to four people right outside our window. They too had just arrived and were checking out the hotel as well as its occupants. That's when it became apparent we would soon be putting on a show. The vertical blinds were missing sections which would ultimately compromise our privacy. We came to understand the value of the shared balcony for large groups, but the broken blinds could easily have been replaced with drapes.

Basichermosinnblinds 1ally since several of the individual blind slats were missing, any one standing on the porch (which remember was open to all hotel guests) could peer into the window and enjoy the show. I looked at my boyfriend and said "well, if you're an exhibitionist, this is the room for you." Fortunately, my boyfriend is quite handy and was able to rig up a home made curtain using the bedspread.

The employees running the Hermosa were quite pleasant but had no idea how to fix the situation, other than posting a "wet paint" sign on the door of the balcony to deter entrance. Be aware, we did not make a big stink of it with the front desk ( so there is no way to tell what would have happened if we did). The staff was kind enough to recommend where we could find an inexpensive cup of coffee as well as directing us to other points of interest. They also held our bags after we checked out, so we could explore the island.

Again the staff was great and I suspect other rooms (with a private bathroom and working blinds or at least rooms with curtains) would allow for a more pleasant stay. We were told cottages were available at the same price for the leap year special but on a first come basis.

If you are bothered by street noise this also may not be the hotel for you (unless a room situated in the back of the building was requested). There are more expensive hotels located off the busy streets as options for those who need a quite setting. I personally had no problem with being close to the busy street (unlike my travel companion) but I am originally from New York City and feel at home with the lively city sounds.

Serichardbilow-march2016catalinalights72dpi600 2e Image: By Richard Bilow

So if booking a room at the Hermosa Hotel, they do offer affordable specials...just remember to ask questions. There are great deals to be had in the winter season. Just make sure you don't book room # 15 unless you're into that sort of thing! 

Hermosa Hotel, 131 Metropole Street, Avalon CA 90704, 310-510-1010, http://www.hermosahotel.com

Restaurant Review: Southend in Venice Offers Authentic Pizza!

Born and raised in New York City and spent most of my life being spoiled by amazing cuisine....of course New York classics like pizza and bagels are foods I was quite wary of when I first arrived in LA about fifteen years ago...(yes both have improved...but my goodness, it took a long time).

Asm-SouthEnd-Wines a food writer, I have tasted my share of pizza. I recently had the good fortune to enjoy a meal at the local eatery, Southend on Abbot Kinney in Venice. We were greeted by the gregarious owner and chef, a Mario Vollera and escorted to our seats.

The dark wine bar has a cozy romantic feel. We sat at the bar and immediately started sampling wines. Vollera has been a sommelier since 2011. He explained that he collaborated with a vineyard in Chili to create his own wine with / featuring the restaurant's namesake. It had a bold yet fruity flavor a perfect red to pair with a delicious pizza.

Born in Rome, Vollera started cooking when he was just sixteen. He was inspired by his mother's eggplant and her memorable calzones with fresh spinach. He arrived in Los Angeles in 2008 and started working as a Senior Chef for MidiCi located in the San Fernando Valley. He had always been attracted to Venice Beach, so in 2013 it was only natural that he should open his own restaurant at the artistic seaside mecca with pizza as its main staple.

"Venicesm-SouthEnd-Cropped-OnionBrieTarte is the best place on earth...the culture, the art, the beach, the people the music...all great for me," said Vollera. "Just walking on the boardwalk on Sunday afternoon for me is magic."

We started the meal with an Onion & Brie tarte (caramelized onion, brie, seasonal fruit, aceto balsamico). It was delicate, with a delicious ink squid crust. Next Vollera brought out a tortellini with cheese and prosciutto. A flavorful dish...this was a true comfort food. We tried not to finish it, as to save room for the pizza, which soon appeared. We were presented with two incredible pizza pies. Going back and forth between them, I tried to make a judgment about which would win my taste buds over...a hard decision.

See sm-SouthEnd-Vanguardimage: The Vanguard

The vanguard featured organic mushrooms, fontina chees, fresno chilies, fiore sardo, and fine herbs. It was delicious with a perfect crust...doughy yet crisp.

The 1905 pie offered a bold flavor with heritage pork salciccia, crushed roma tomatoes, kalamata olives, fresh mozzarella, red onion, and marjoram. The latter was the winner in my eyes due to the intense flavors, but they were well matched.

Vollera said the most popular pizza and his personal favorite was the Abbot Kinney, (crushed Roma tomatoes, burrata cheese, basil pesto, Monini EVOO)

sm-SouthEnd-cropped-Pizza-1905See image: The 1905

Be sure to pop into this charming restaurant. If you love pizza and good wine, there is no way you can go wrong. Great prices too.

Southend is located at 2805 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice CA 90291 (the entrance is on Washington Blvd. behind the gas station).

Dinner hours are 4:00pm -10:00pm Mondays through Thursdays and 4:30pm -11:00pm on Weekends (Fridays – Sundays). There is also a happy hour available Mondays - Thursdays from 4:30pm-6:00pm and Fridays - Sundays, from 4:30 – 6:00pm. 424-2284736; http://www.southendla.com