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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Travel Review: Re-discover Harlem, NYC!

Music has long been a big part of the culture of New York. Growing up in this city, I spent many a night in Harlem hanging out in clubs such as Bill's Place, Showman's Jazz Club, and of course the very popular Apollo Theater. Back in the day, the neighborhood was very different. Today, the signs of gentrification are everywhere, but thank goodness Harlem has managed to keep some of its retro soulful dives alive.
Les Goodson Soul Jazz Band, photo by Richard Bilow

Paris Blues is a classic dive bar located in West Harlem. It's a throw-back blues venue featuring local jazz and blues. I stopped in to see the Les Goodson Soul Jazz Band. The bar was relatively quiet when I first arrived at 9:45pm, but it soon filled up...standing room only. I met owner Samuel (Sam) Hargress, Jr., who informed me that he just turned eighty. He had always been a lover of music and opened Paris Blues fifty-eight years ago. When I asked if the name was inspired by the Paul Newman/Sydney Poitier/Joanne Woodward movie with the same name, he replied, "No, it was inspired by my family's history with the Harlem Hellfighters in Paris." Paris Blues, 2021 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd, New York, NY 10027;

Red Rooster Harlem has an excellent reputation. Chef and co-owner Marcus Samuelsson's signature cuisine is just one of the many attributes this club has to offer. Featuring a weekly mix of styles - Jazz, Latin Jazz, World Music, and DJs - it creates a wonderful community atmosphere. Talented veteran musicians play the Red Rooster along with special guest musicians and singers allowing an off-the-cuff experience to unfold.

Manager Tynae Lester gave us a quick tour before leading my travel partner/photographer and myself to our table. We ordered a delicious Malbec (Susanna Balbo Crios, 2014, Mendoza) - a fruity full-bodied red, with cherry overtones. The place was starting to jump when the Yep Chicken and Waffles circa 1930 (Jesus' hot breath, Vermont syrup, pickle chips) arrived at the table. The chicken was perfectly fried with a spiced batter that tantalized my palette. The waffles were soft with a delicate crunch and complemented the dish, along with the zesty cilantro dip.
Yep Chicken and waffles circa 1930, photo by Richard Bilow

Next, we enjoyed the Warm Beef Kitfo (beef tartare, berbere spiced yogurt, awase vinaigrette, fried Injera) and Sister Franny's Crab Toast (blue crab, cheddar, ginger, yum tom, crispy shallots, cilantro, grilled flat bread). Both dishes were sensational. The Warm Beef Kitfo offered a multi-dimensional spice pairing. It was an exquisite flavor, but Sister Franny's Crab Toast knocked my socks off. The delicate crab mixed with cheddar was a wonderful savory combination, but the spicy sauce and jalapeños on top brought my taste buds to a whole new level. Dessert was also delightful. We enjoyed La Isla Bonita (tres leche cake, rum, passion fruit, and banana) Coffee and Doughnuts (dulce de leche ice cream and mocha).
RedRooster-SisterFrannysCrabToastSister Franny's Crab Toast, photo by Richard Bilow

For a Monday evening, the Red Rooster attracted a huge crowd. The Rakiem Walker Project (RWP) played to a group of enthusiastic fans. The jazz band played from 8-12am and featured horns, drums, vocals, guitar, keyboards, etc., with many guest performers jumping in.

Supervisor and artist Leon Johnson came by to say hello and recounted his personal history with the restaurant. Johnson was recently promoted to supervisor at the Red Rooster, but has been a server for the past five years. Johnson is an artist and first met the owner at the Red Rooster. Samuelsson was working on a new cookbook. "I actually became involved with the cookbook when I handed Marcus my business card in passing," explained Johnson. "Later, he mentioned that he was putting together a cookbook and asked if I would be interested and I, of course, was totally honored." Johnson's illustrations that were used in the book are also on display at the Red Rooster. "I like my work to come together like jazz - incorporating every line, every mark, every splat of ink in order to create my visual song."
RedRooster-LeonJohnsonArtArtwork by Leon Johnson featured in the Red Rooster Cookbook: The Story of Food and Hustle in Harlem; Original art is on view at the Red Rooster

The restaurant sports additional art on the walls by artists such as Derrick Adams, Howard Cash, Brandon Coley Cox, Bobby Fisher, Mark Leckey, Lorna Simpson, and more.

After talking to Lester and Johnson, I soon realized the restaurant staff and musicians were a tight-knit family, blending food, music, art, and cookbook to boot. Red Rooster Cookbook: The Story of Food and Hustle in Harlem recently published, features recipes of many of the restaurant's top dishes. Samuelsson has long been a lover of jazz. His book tour in October/November of 2016 featured the Rakiem Walker Project. Samuelsson's idea was to bring a slice of Harlem life with him on the book tour, so he invited the band and the dance group W.A.F.F.L.E., thus creating a one-of-a-kind experience for all. Red Rooster Harlem, 310 Lenox Avenue, New York, NY 10027; http://www.redroosterharlem.com

If you happen to be in New York City and love music, take some time to re-discover Harlem...it's fantastic!

Wine Tasting...With LA Art Party!

A group of talented artists and wine lovers April-2015-Wine-Tasting-LAAP1gathered at an informal wine tasting at the headquarters of LA Art Party. Our tasters consisted of Michael Baroff, Barbara Kosoff, J.J.L'Heureux and Jennifer Verge. Of course, I (Kathy Leonardo) hosted, offering some finger sandwiches and other various other bites.

Earlier in the month, Gruppo Mezzacorona generously donated some wine to a an art opening and charity event benefiting Miracles for Kids produced by LA Art Party and nitespa. Wine rep John D'Alvia attended and poured at the event. "BaciVivaci--meaning "Lively Kisses" in Italian--is our newest sparkling from Sicily," explained D'Alvia. "It's a light sparkling made from Grillo, Sicily's most prominent white grape. This wine has all the components of a great white wine: lively aromatics, hints of tropical fruit, and delicately balanced with minerality and nice acidity. It's perfect for the spring and summer months ahead." For more info see http://www.gruppomezzacorona.it/

It was a delightful wine. Lively and crisp...bubbles danced on our tongues. Coincidentally, I happen to be a huge fan of this company's 2013 Pinot Noir and had mentioned to John that I was always searching for it in local markets. He brought some to the event as well. The Pinot Noir sells for less than $10, and was well rounded and smooth...not too heavy. 

I April-2015-Wine-Tasting-LAAPdid go home with some....alas it did not make it to the tasting...Mama had at it late one night as I was tirelessly writing a Huff Post article.

Back to our wine review...We started with a chilled Pinot Grigio 2013 from Cliffhanger. It was quite lively and refreshing. "Fruity, but not too sweet" exclaimed Barbara. Michael said it was crisp with a lovely bouquet. J.J. detected the essence of pears...(we all said "yes"). Jen also commented on how crisp and delightful it was. Truth be told, I am more of a red wine lover, but would definitely consider purchasing some for a summer evening by the beach. That's any  summer night for me, since I live a half a block from the ocean.

The Cliffhanger Pinot Grigio can be found at Robert Burns Liquor in Beverly Hills, Hillhurst Liquor in Los Feliz and Remedy Wine and Spirits in Glendale. It is also featured at the Beverly Hill's Avalon Hotel (by the glass).

Next was a lovely red blend that may have beenApril-2015-WineTasting-LAAP3 my favorite. At first taste, J.J. said, "It's peppery." Barbara commented (as she swirled the wine in her glass), "It has a nice bouquet and good legs with a little bit of spice." Jen agreed, with Michael adding that it had a rich full body and was quite delectable. All in all I thought this one was thoroughly smooth and as it opened up, the taste of the spice lingered.

Cliffhanger Rosso can also be found at Robert Burns Liquor Beverly Hills, at Remedy Wine and at Spirits in Glendale and Hillhurst Liquor in Los Feliz.

Our third wine to try was a full body Chianti. "It really takes you back to Italy," remarked Jen, who also noticed the oak flavor. J.J. (a fan of labels – which she often incorporates into her artwork) pointed out that the bottle had an authentic Chianti label specifically noting the rooster at the top of the bottle. "It's.more tannic then the blend," Barbara added. "You can taste the earth." Michael admitted that although he would not normally reach for a chianti when purchasing wine, he would indeed purchase this one. He also suggested that this full bodied red would go great with pasta. "And pizza or a steak," chimed in Barbara. Finally J.J. suggested that the chianti continued to "hold up" as it opened.

Querceto Chianti Classico can be enjoyed at these establishments: 800 Degrees Pizza (Downtown LA), Centanni (1700 Lincoln Blvd. Venice), Fireside Farms (Santa Monica) Hotel MdR (Marina Del Rey).

April-2015-Wine-Tasting-LAAP-bottlesRounding off the evening, we decided to enjoy a delicious Deco Port brought to us by J.J. She is a fan of Sonoma port works and often brings back multiple bottles from her trips up the coast to bring as gifts to her friends back in LA. I have had the pleasure of tasting this once before at J.J.'s home and loved it. The chocolaty aroma and taste seemed to delight the group...that...or the fact that we were now on our fourth bottle and perhaps anything would be tasty at this point.

I can say with certainty (since I have had it before), it offers a scrumptious rich flavor. Not usually a fan of port, the chocolate after taste is delightful and engaging.

A wonderful time was had by all. Thanks to Gruppo Mezzacorona for sending samples and to J.J. L'Heureux's contribution of the Deco Port from Sonoma Portworks.

Keeping it Local...Two Fabulous Venice, Santa Monica Happy Hours!

Most of our crew here at LA Art Party live in Venice...a couple in SM too. Venice is home to many incredible restaurants....

See Kathy's Huffington Post article about the Taste of Venice. Here she spotlights the food of the many exceptional restaurants in the Venice area.

Well here are HappyHour-CandleStickCafea couple of favorites.

For a casual and inexpensive meal...Hang by the beach and enjoy the sunset. Summer or Winter...

Located right on the Venice Beach Boardwalk, Candle Café & Grill is a very "local" relaxed cafe...offering classic beach fare. We often meet our clients at thie local eartery...it's also the pefect spot to watch the colorful Venice performers.

My favorite happy hour item is the pulled pork sandwich...for just $5. Lots more on the happy hour menu such as tacos, the fries are hand-cut. Breakfasts, appetizers, pastas, pizza, burgers, salads and popular entrees are the core of the six-page menu. Relax with one of 22 beers on draft, wine, or specialty cocktails. Try some recent additions to the menu: Hummus Platter, Vegetarian Chipotle Burger, or fresh Scottish Salmon Steak. They also offer tasty pizzas.

Check the website for latest Happy hour Times

Where: Candle Café & Grill 325 Ocean Front Walk, Venice 90291
Phone: (310) 314-4456
Website: www.venicecandlecafe.com

Or if you are looking for a bit more upscale...enjoy breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean while dining at the Hungry Cat Santa Monica Canyon. 

HappyHour-HungryCat-SMThis is the third location for Chef/owner David Lentz to continue to create delicious dishes. This seafood based restaurant put a spotlight on fish... paired with the best locally sourced ingredients. 

Start off happy hour with an oysters shooter ($5). Cocktails such as the Hungry Cat Margarita will run $7. Wine runs $6 - $7, with a variety of beer available for $4. Happy hour itnem include fish tacos, Lil pugs (sliders) merguez sausage and mussels and more. Prices range from $3.50 to $7. With a 1/2 dozen oysters also available for $14.

Where: The Hungry Cat Santa Monica, 100 W. Channel Raod, Santa Monica, CA 90402
Phone: (310) 459-3337
Website: http://www.thehungrycat.com/santa_monica

LA's Dining Hot Spots!

One thing great about big cities....LA, NY....is the ever-changing restaurant scene. New, incredible, inventive and trendy dining spots pop up every other day. It's a hard road for restaurants. Some truly wonderful ones fall to the wayside sometimes. So get out there and discover them quick kids. It's up to us foodies to keep them alive.

Here are a few that are new to the Los Angeles Dining scene.....be sure to pop in and give your taste buds a treat!

In Los Feliz...HomeState or as listed on its website My HomeState...celebrates just that.

SeeHomestate-pix photo from HomeState's website

Owner Briana Valdez's pays homage to the food from her home state of Texas. The restaurant showcases Tex-Mex dishe that she grew up with, which is a perfect fit for Los Angeles. Its a new breakfast and lunch cafe serving up some down home Tex-Mex dishes such as breakfast tacos, queso and frito pie, and more.

HomeState, 4624 Hollywood Blvd. Los Feliz; 323-906-1122; http://www.myhomestate.com/

There's a new hotspot in Koreatown called "The Bun Shop." A natural progression from The Bun Truck....Chef James Seok stepped up his game and opened the new brick & mortar eatery in January 2014. Don't worry, you can still get all those great tasting buns, but in addition Seok has added a whole new line.....featuring fried spam, pork belly and fried avocado for vegetarians.

This Bao Bun & Brew bar features a "Dosirak" rice box, as well as other favorites such as rosemary fries, ba'corn cheese, and lots more. The Bun Shop 151 N Western Ave, LA 90004; (323) 468-1031; http://www.thebunshopla.com/

Touted as a seafood restaurant, Salt Air in Venice is one more restaurant to take its turn at 1616 Abbot Kinney...Yes this location has been home to to many food establishments, so let's keep our fingers crossed for this one. The dinner menu features raw and fried oysters as well as salmon, lobster rolls, and bouillabaise (fish stew) for two. However both steak and burgers share the page along with LA's mandatory veggie burger.

Salt Air, 1616 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice 90291; 310-396-9333; http://www.saltairvenice.com

Mercado-WthirdChef Jose Acevedo and co-owner Jesse Gomez open a second location for Mercado in Beverly Grove. Offering traditional Mexican fare with an upscale flair, Mercado features dishes such as shrimp tacos, Carne Asada as well as a marinated skirt steak and more. The menu is much the same as the original Mercado in Santa Monica. 

Cucumber jalapeño margaritas are a welcoming cocktail which only add to the trendy open-air feel of the place... complete with leather booths and fireplaces as well as a covered patio space.

Mercado, 7910 W. Third St.; (323) 944-0947 http://www.mercadorestaurant.com/

Dining Options Featured in Westside Today!

OK men....listen up. You don't want to miss this special day. Yes it's corny but important. See my article featuring a list of Westside's best dining options for the big day. Click Here to read the full article.
Westside Today Article

The Taste of Main Street, Santa Monica

An ex-New Yorker, I prefer to take a walk over any other type of transportation. Living by the beach has afforded me the convenience of walking to most of my destinations. Santa Monica's Main street is a frequent route.

On a Google egg-rolls-chinese-food-weekly basis, I try new restaurants and venture in establishments to take a peek...a quick bite here, a snack there....Being from NYC, I will admit I am a food snob. I was a bi-coastal actress back in the 80s and was horrified to find the state of LA's basic "diner food" and absolutely appauled by the "Chinese Food"....I'm talking chop meat in an egg roll ....wtf???

Let's not even bring up what was called a bagel in this town or even a slice of pizza!!! Yikes! Thankfully things have changed. The food in LA has progressively become more savvy. Yes, I will admit I have been swayed by some of LA's eating habits. I have become accustomed to mustard on my burger. I do enjoy a "fully loaded" in and out burger once a year.

LA'Galley inSM ShrimpScampis cuisine has definitely improved from the 1980s. A restaurant that I've been to many times is The Galley. Located at 2442 Main St., I have ordered steaks, enjoyed the happy hour deals at the bar (1/2 price off of selected menu items) and on my most recent visit, I ordered the shrimp scampi. Delicious! Wonderful sauce, great for dipping the signature crusty bread given to each customer when you sit down. I highly recommend this one. http://www.thegalleyrestaurant.net/

Shoop Eurpean Cafe (2400 Main St) has long peeked my interest. So finally one day I walked in and was taken back by the rude cashier, snippy and impatient. I ordered the Pastrami (the clevelander $10.50). The bad service continued when I sat down to wait for my sandwich...it took forever for my order. I decided to leave when it finally came. Now I am sure the horrible service from Shoop left a bad taste in my mouth. However, I have tasted pastrami from all over the world and there was NOTHING special about this over-priced sandwich....good Sarakraut, but nothing else sparked my interest. Two thumbs down on this one.

Restaurant BravoPizzaOn another day I stopped by BRAVO Pizzeria. I usually don't order pizza in LA (yes I wait till I return to NYC...don't want to waste those ever-so-important calories), but I decided, "Heck let's try some." Wow!!! What a surprise. Melt in your mouth....goey cheese...foldable NY pizza....unlike the cardboard crusts that I have tried in LA....Great prices too!

I enjoyed a sausage and pepper pizza...yum. Simply Delicious!!! The sandwiches look tasty as well. Alas I can only eat so much. You can bet I'll be back to try something else....but now at least I know where to go to find a good slice of pizza.

Bravo Pizzeria is located at 2400 Main St. in Santa Monica, CA 90405; (310) 392-7466; http://www.bravosantamonica.com/pizzeria/

AnGoogle happy hour w clockother restaurant that I have frequented often is La Vecchia located at 2654 Main St. The only issue is, you HAVE TO GET THERE early to partake in its hearty Italian happy hour. But it is worth the wait.

The portions are quite large and not restricted to just appetizers as most. Options include, six varieties of pizza, salads and some incredible pasta dishes. http://www.lavecchia.com/.

Dining Out on a Budget!

DHappyHour Blackining out can be an expensive venture. Even in this economy, restaurants are still charging top dollar. Dinner for two will set you back more than you'd expect. However there are many creative ways to stretch your dollar. Many restaurants offer happy hours, which can keep your budget on track.

The Lobster has a fabulous happy hour which also comes withe exceptional views. A mutlitude of martini options are available plus a very tasty mojito. A lobster roll or lobster corndog can do the trick of satisying your appetite, as  well as some crunchy spicy calamari. The Lobster is located at 1602 Ocean Ave. in Santa Monica. http://www.thelobster.com/.

For a Southern twist, stop into South on Wilshire for their tasty happy hour featuring, Gator Wings, Cajun Rings, Hushpuppies and more. South is located at 3001 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica http://southsantamonica.com/.


Also PF Changs is a wonderful option if you have a hankering for chinese. They offer a good selection of cocktails, plus ribs, lettuce wraps, shrimp dumplings and more. Happy hour is limited to the bar, but at most locations, the bar is quite expansive. There are many locations to choose from...Santa Monica, Hollywood, etc. See their website for the PF Changs nearest you. http://www.pfchangs.com/

La Vecchia located at 2654 Main St. in Santa Monica offers a hearty Italian happy hour at their bar. The portions are quite large and not restricted to just appetizers as most. Options include, six varieties of pizza, salads and even pasta. http://www.lavecchia.com/.

You don't have to break the bank, to enjoy a dinner out. Treat yourself to a happy hour and share a bunch of different dishes. Be sure to check each restaurant's individual website for more up to date information.

Food is art and art is food at Upper West

Upper WestUpper West is located on the far side of Santa Monica at 3321 Pico Boulevard. The place was packed on a recent Thursday night. The large eatary is divided into a dining areas and bar. A wall of glass sections off a small room which can be reserved for private parties. It features a 20 foot screen that plays classics (sound is off). Think Bogart and Bacall or Citizen Kane on a rainy night. The choice of films is currently Noir, influenced by the NoirFest Santa Monica which recently had their opening night party at Upper West back in January.

The dinner we received was stupendous. Transplanted Texan, executive chef Nick Shipp, composes an artful menu of California fusion taken to a high art. We started our meal with an appetizer plate of “Carlsbad Muscles / garlic saffron broth / chaba croutons / cilantro” ($15) and a wild arugula salad ($10). The saffron broth, the muscles were cooked in was brilliant. We sopped up every drop with bread. The salad featured “point reyes blue cheese dressing / smoked bacon / dried cherries (the menu reads well too). For our entrées we shared a “Pan Roasted Barrammundi, aji amarillo spice / fennel -potato hash / chorizo / pasilla peperonata / lobster butter / mint / harissa” ($24) and a "Petite Filet Minoin" ($29). I didn’t get much of the steak! I asked to try a spoon full of the (gluten free) mac & cheese, asiago / goat cheese / irish white cheddar / mozzarella / tarragon / tasso ham / parmesan ($12) to get a sense of adventure the rest of the menu offers.

UpperWestStaffImage from left to right, Clay Cummings (waiter) and Elad Benisti (co-owner).

The waiting staff is very professional (or perhaps they just like their jobs) and work to make everyone feel welcome allowing each guest to have a special experience. Wine is half price on Tuesday. I understand they have a fabulous happy hour, onw can only imagine. The bar features their own take on “specialty drinks.”

For more information about Upper West Restaurant, see their website at http://www.theupperwest.com/.