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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Review: The Good Pizza

I love to review food, and even though my taste buds are drawn to the complicated cuisine of upscale restaurants, I am still open to finding terrific versions of basic food, at all types of venues. One can find delicisous quick bites at many casual pay-at-the-counter type food establishments...such as this one in Marina Del Rey.
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Image: courtesy of LAArtParty;

I was recently introduced to The Good Pizza on Lincoln Boulevard. And as a New Yorker, I am especially particular about my pizza. My boyfriend had been raving about this place, so I decided to give it a try.

Although not a vegetarian, I love vegetables while still enjoying pepperoni on my pizza from time to time. While my boyfriend chose a few slices loaded with meat, l was drawn to a slice covered with artichoke hearts, spinach, and mushrooms. Underneath the veggies, I found pepperoni - an added bonus. Very often pizzerias offer one or the other (meat or vegetables) on its pies...not a combination of both. I am assuming a true vegetarian would first confirm that the pizza was meat-free, but I was delighted by the topping variety. The pizza was easy to fold (important for us New Yorkers) and covered with a delicious tomato sauce. The crust was chewy with just enough crunch...delish!
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Image: courtesy of LAArtParty; a meat eaters dream

If you are looking for NY quality pizza, pop by The Good Pizza, 4222 Lincoln Boulevard, Marina del Rey, CA 90292; 424 835-4243; http://www.thegoodpizza.com

Restaurant Review: Willie Jane Restaurant!

Restaurant-550w-WillieJane-DrinksL.A. Art Party sampled the food at the Willie Jane Restaurant at 1031 Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice at the invitation of owner Linda Ayles-Johnson, who told us she was making some changes to the menu. Willie Jane specializes in Southern soul food cooking.

We went at happy hour, and the joint was pretty jumping for a quiet Weds. afternoon. We sat out on the back patio where the decor is very lush and homey, and this seemed to be the location of choice for many happy hour attendees.

In Restaurant-550w-WillieJane-Shrimpaddition to well drinks, beer, and wine, each week Willie Jane mixologist concocts a special Drink of the Week. When we were there, it was the "Smith & Wesson", a very tasty blend of bourbon, vermouth, and cardamaro. Loved it.

Next we ordered a few happy hour dishes, the Deviled Eggs (with smoked bacon and trout roe), the Peel & Eat BBQ Spiced Shrimp, and the Just Baked Biscuit (with local honey and fresh butter). All three were amazing, though we feel the need to tell Chef Govind Armstrong that the Spiced Shrimp was some of the best we've ever tried.

Other Happy Hour (4-7 p.m.) delights include Smoked Chicken Wings with Spicy BBQ Aioli, Bar Burger, Iced Oysters, and Kale & Citrus Salad.

HRestaurant-550w-WillieJane-chickenandwafflesappy Hour prices are reasonable, mostly in the $7 to $10 range, with drinks (including the Drink of the Week) mostly $6.

For our main course, we tried the Pork Ribs, Black Eyed Pea & Charred Onion Salad and Mary's Fried Chicken & Waffle, which is the specialty of the house, along with a side of Fried Brussel Sprouts, Local Pears & Magic Peanuts.

Don't know what was magic about the peanuts or who Mary is, but it was all delicious -- especially the Fried Chicken & Waffle, which is prepared in some kind of spicy sauce and gives Roscoe's a run for its money.

ORestaurant-550w-WillieJane-porkribsther main course selections include Shrimp & Grits, Blackened Salmon, Curried Oxtail, Crispy Pork Chop and Grilled Hanger Steak.

Prices range from $10 to $28, not bad for Abbot Kinney!

Willie Jane is open daily from 4 p.m. to midnight, and on Sat. and Sun., they have a special brunch from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. which features bottomless mimosas for $15, in addition to food specials.

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

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/

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

In Search of Your Next Favorite Restaurant!

huffpost-logoLos Angeles is home to a vast amount of amazing restaurants. But who has the time or the budget to visit them all? Yes happy hours can serve up a taste of what the restaurant has to offer. However happy hours sometimes feature items solely from the appetizer menu.

Food Festivals are a popular option. Here food lovers have the chance to try a ecelectic array of cuisine from many restaurants all in one place. Usually it is a sample of a main dish and as well as an appetizer. Sometimes even a signature dessert.

If yKathy andFoodCritic Jonathan Goldou happen to be a foodie...you'll love festivals such as the TASTE, Los Angeles Food and Wine Show and more. See links to both my Huff Post food event reviews about both festivals.

You even have the chance to meet exceptional chefs and food critics like Pulitzer Prize Winner, Jonathan Gold.

My staff and I (at LA Art Party) have enjoyed many food type events (yes that includes wine events too). Many of these festivals offer spirits, wine and beer as well. So be sure to pick a designated driver and decide who draws the lucky straw to be the designated drinker....you know that's always my job.

Get out there and enjoy!!!

Hotel Review: The Capri, Ojai CA

HotelReview-theCapriI recently enjoyed a beautiful drive up the coast with a stop off at Ojai California. I needed a break from my hectic schedule. A friend had recommended the Capri Hotel for a quick lodging stay. I will say I was quite impressed, which is why I am writing this review. When I first got out of my car, I was astounded by the view overlooking the Topa Topa Mountains.  

A modern hotel, the room I stayed in had refrigerator, and a microwave, not that I needed it for my one night stay. I did enjoy the cable television, and complimentary wi-fi though. The lush greenery surrounding the hotel made me immediately want to go for a walk. It was a bit too brisk for me to take a dip in the pool, but one family seemed not to care about the weather. The kids were having the time of their lives in the pool, while the parents were kicking back in the cabana.

On my walk...I found myself headed toward the town, which was charming and decked out for the holidays. I passed by a delightful gallery called Porch Gallery...stopped and walked into a two person show entitled "10,000 Days." The exhibition featured husband and wife artists Richard Amend an exceptional painter and Susan Stinsmuehlen-Amend who created some stunning glasswork. The exhibition will remain on view through April 26, 2015. For more info visit http://porchgalleryojai.com

FoHotelReview-Topa-TopaMtnsr dinner, I had a wonderful meal at the Deer Lodge. The wine was fantastic ...of course I am not a wine reviewer like Kathy (founder of LAArtParty). The restaurant was quite close to the hotel and slept like a baby. I am planning to come back for a longer stay. I found out certain rooms do allow for animals - I wish I would have known, I sometimes travel with one of my neighbor (who has a dog) but I decided pretty last minute...I just had to get away. I highly recommend the Capri Hotel for a quick or long stay.

The Capri hotel is located at 1180 E Ojai Avenue Ojai, CA 93023-3013. Call (805) 646-4305 for reservations or visit the website http://hotelojai.com








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.

The trip inspired me to write several articles - one for PADI about my underwater adventure, and one more for Arianna Huffington's new website, THRIVE GLOBAL. The artice touts 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

Since 2010, the population of the island has been growing rapidly, and local entrepreneurs have responded by introducing new fine dining and luxury lodging options to this tranquil island. With so much to see and do, we grabbed our bags and quickly headed over to the Budget Car Rental, located right on the airport premises. A pickup truck is the way to go for divers, and Budget had just what we needed.

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://crfbonaire.org/