Kathy Leonardo

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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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Celebrate Chefs & Cellars Event at Palos Verdes Vineyard - A Huge Success!

Catalina View Gardens, a Palos Verdes vineyard hosted an incredible food and wine event titled Celebrate Chefs & Cellars.
The vineyard offered exceptional views....of course the food, wine and spirits were simply magnificent as well. Read my Huff Post review about the event. 

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.
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.
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.

When Times Get Tough, Go to Tea!

A Gloomy Day Blooms into an Unforgettable one at the Huntington Rose Garden Tea Room - This article was re-posted on THRIVE GLOBAL.

Life can be challenging...and death even more. My ninety-year old dad recently passed away. He had a stroke a while back, and his health progressively deteriorated. When it finally happened, it was a blessing. My mom had left this world over twenty-five years ago. They were married for thirty-seven years, and he adored her. After her death, he never even mentioned another woman. He gave up listening to opera and classical music, a mutual love that my mom and he shared, and repeatedly told my sister, brother, and myself that he was waiting to join her. Now he finally has.
Camellias, photo by Kathy Leonardo 

I was in a fog, but happy to have the love and support of my family, friends, and my boyfriend. Everyone says, "Give yourself time," "Take care of yourself," but what does that really mean? I took that phrase to heart and decided to take care of myself. I took the afternoon off from work, called some friends and said, "Let's go to tea!" Where? I had always heard about the English Tea located in the Rose Garden at the Huntington - the official name being: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. This is where I wanted to go. I loved flowers - after all, they reminded me of my mother - who I'd been talking to a lot more since my father's passing. I certainly did not have a green thumb, but plants were a passion of my mom's. In fact, she was an active member of various orchid, succulent and cacti societies in the New York area.

The 120 acre grounds were beautifully manicured, peppered with patches of Camellias, Clivia, and other varieties of seasonal flora. As soon as I saw the flowers, I thought of my mom and how she and my dad were probably hanging out right then in their own private rose garden in the sky.
English tea at the Rose Garden Tea Room, photo by Kathy Leonardo

The tea room was lovely, with its china set ups displayed on all the tables. I felt like a little girl again. I was joined by two of my most fun friends, who I knew would truly appreciate this genteel display of hospitality. A chilled Prosecco made a good first impression as we perused the tea selections. We each chose a different tea, so we could sneak a taste of the others. I chose the Huntington blend (their signature tea), which we all agreed was by far our favorite. It offered a subtle flora and jasmine flavor with a slight hint of vanilla. The Raspberry Nectar and Earl Grey Creme were also wonderful. As we sipped our tea and cherished the moments...I reminisced about my childhood...telling my companions about my father's love of tea. That had been another tradition of his that somehow fell by the wayside. We toasted to him and my mom. "Live in the moment"...those are the words I kept hearing in my mind...now that my own mortality was staring back at me.

The house-made crumpets and scones were simply sublime They appeared with Devonshire cream, lemon curd, marmalade and fruit preserves...all exquisite. Then came the classic three-tiered offering of assorted finger sandwiches and petit desserts. It was a fantastic presentation! If you have never experienced an English tea, I highly recommend it. The variety of sandwiches included mushroom/arugula/tomato, smoked salmon with caviar, dill cream cheese, Persian cucumber, chicken salad sandwich, and a truffle egg salad in a delicate phyllo cup. The desserts were an exquisite celebratory finish. I do enjoy a guilty pleasure...when eating lots of little delicious bites, somehow I tell myself it's not fattening. Whatever the cost - the miniature apple pie, tiramisu, profiterole, coconut macaroon, red velvet cupcake and the rose cookies were all worth the calories.

While we were there, we learned that Bon Appétit Management Company took over the dining portion of the famed Huntington Library Gardens. Executive Chef Marc Powers said he wanted to create a menu inspired by traditional English tea, with a locally and sustainably sourced flavor. He added, "We are working hard to offer a high-quality culinary and service experience that complements the surrounding historic gardens."
With Ross Mapletoft; photo by @finnjun

We rolled back out to the gardens satiated by our tea and crumpet experience and finished our impromptu day of abandonment. The wisteria trees were in full bloom. The Japanese Garden was magnificent along with the Shakespeare Garden...we even stopped by the Children's Garden as well as the California Garden and learned about the importance of growing native plants. We never made it to the art gallery, which I hear is fantastic, but we did see Alexander Calder's Jerusalem Stabile decadently standing in all its glory on our way out. Alas, I'll have to return for another visit.

What started as a gloomy day bloomed into an unforgettable one. With each new day comes a new lesson and mine was to be in the moment and cherish my loved ones.
Clivia, photo by Kathy Leonardo 

The Huntington is located at 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, CA 91108; Hours: 10am-5pm every day, except Tuesdays (closed). Call ahead to find out what is blooming and be sure to check the website at http://www.huntington.org

Mammoth Mountain - A Quick Weekend Trip!

With the recent rain in LA, the drought situation has improved...thank goodness. If you love snow and everything that comes with it, spend the weekend in Mammoth Mountain. Los Angeles offers some incredible weekend getaways (see my travel/wine review of my trip up to the central coast of California).
Photo by Richard Bilow, CEO of International Hospital Supply, Mike Harris prepared to cut loose on one of Mammoth Mountain's steepest runs

The fact that Wave Rave Snowboard Shop owner and 5-time Verbier Xtreme champion Steve Klassen calls Mammoth his home says a lot. Klassen is one of the true pioneers of the snowboard industry. He takes lines down extreme terrain that seem impossible to survive, let alone navigate with the precision and style required to be a champion. Steve collaborated with Arbor Snowboards to create the Steepwater Snowboard, a big mountain "rocket" designed and built for pushing the limits of the sport. Wave Rave Snowboard Shop has helped create the style and spirit of snowboard culture worldwide. http://www.waveravesnowboardshop.com/

Mammoth is also the home of legendary downhill mountain bike world champion "Insane Wayne" Croasdale, who still holds the record for the fastest Kamikaze run down Mammoth Mountain. "There's nothing like the feeling of being surrounded by towering mountains while ripping down the trails with my dogs by my side," says Croasdale. "The Eastern Sierras is an endless playground for me, and I can't imagine living anywhere else."
laap-2-Mammoth-drive-from-owens-vally-tomammothPhoto by Photo by Richard Bilow, scenic view driving to Mammoth

Watch the weather closely. The mountain is just over five hours from LA...so it makes for a perfect last minute trip. Call in sick, grab your skis and snowboards, and hit the 405 by no later than 2:30pm. You'll miss the traffic and be to the Eastern Sierra town of Mammoth Lakes by 8pm...that is, if you don't speed through any of the small towns. Do that, and you will have a very expensive delay. By 5:30pm, you will be far from the city and driving through some truly beautiful landscapes known as the Eastern Sierra Scenic Corridor. The first town you will notice will be Lone Pine, base camp for those climbing Mount Whitney, the over 14,000-foot peak that is a challenging hike to say the least. You may want to hit Lone Pine during the summer and give the hike a try, if you are both athletic and in great shape.
Photo by Richard Bilow, Mount Whitney

The key to a successful trip to Mammoth, if you are determined to get the best conditions, is subscribing to Howard Schecter's Platinum Powder Alerts

Photographer and avid snowboarder Richard Bilow said he has been using these reports to determine when to hit the mountain for years. Predicting the perfect conditions is both an art and a science, with a healthy dose of gut feeling. Fortunately, if calm winds and blue skies don't prevail, the mountain staff works diligently to keep the slopes set for skiers and snowboarders of all levels, spinning the lifts whenever possible. This year, due to the massive amount of snowfall, you still have many months remaining to enjoy the winter sports.

The views from the top of the mountain are panoramic and truly stunning, and the lower runs offer a spectacular perspective as well. Bilow said he allocates time in between runs to marvel at the landscape. "I once sat looking up at the top of the mountain, which by the way is over 11,000 feet high, while the wind blew swirling powdery snow dust into the sky," said Bilow. "It looked like a vortex of diamonds." Bilow's childhood memories include trips to Mammoth with friends. "I grew up going there with my best friend Mike, whose family had a condo and who always invited me along," explained Bilow. "I think of Mammoth as a home away from home, and I still make it a point to chase a few powder days each season, but these days, I find myself more inspired to take photographs in the area than to risk life and limb on the mountain."
Photo by Richard Bilow, view from the top of Mammoth

Mammoth offers something for everyone – at every skill level. In fact, you may see celebrity athletes such as Chloe Kim, Brandon Davis or Tina Basich practicing their jumps on the mountain. Look up from the main lodge towards the terrain park or take the lift over the park. You are likely to see these world-class athletes pushing their personal limits as they prepare for upcoming competitions.

For those who prefer a more old-school mountain experience, June Mountain is another option. It's about forty-five minutes from Mammoth and is known for its great powder runs through the trees. Crowds are lower, and views of the June Lake Loop are something really special.
Photo by Richard Bilow, June Lakes from June Mountain

For additional info about this area, visit these websites: http://www.visitmammoth.com/ https://www.mammothmountain.com/

Rain or Shine - Foodie Lovers Flocked to the Masters of Taste 2017

Our day began on the field of the Historic Pasadena Rose Bowl on May 7th for the 2nd Annual Masters of Taste, a luxury food and beverage festival.
May 2017-MOT-rosebowl-by-rbilow
Photo by Richard Bilow

It was a sunny day at first, but then the clouds rolled in, the sky grew dark, and suddenly heavy rain, thunderstorms and lightening ensued! Luckily I had my umbrella so it barely put a damper on our afternoon. Then just as quickly as the rains came, the sky cleared and the sun was out once again. On this interesting afternoon, to say the least, from 3 PM to 7 PM, we sampled and enjoyed some of LA's finest fare from 40+ restaurants, and 25+ craft beer, cocktail bars, wineries, and breweries as unlimited tastings were served to all guests. Proceeds to benefit Union Station Homeless Services, an organization committed to helping homeless men, women and children rebuild their lives.

Here are some highlights from our favorite culinary offerings. Our first taste of the day was a flavorful and tender steak served with fresh basil and delicate dressing from the Bacchus Kitchen of Pasadena.
May 2017-MOT-rosebowl-BacchusKitchen-by-rbilow
Cuisine provided by Bacchus Kitchen; Photo by Kathy Leonardo

We also enjoyed a glass of the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Gold Medal Winner from Vine Mark Cellars which was delicious and well balanced with flavors of rich blackberry and currant. The crab roll with dill from the Venice Whaler was delicious. We paired it with the 2016 Sauvignon Blanc from Robert Hall of Paso Robles. It was refreshingly dry and medium-bodied with a rich crisp acidity. Also went well with the spicy Ahi tuna mixed with scallions, sesame seeds and spicy sauce from Hoke Poke of downtown Los Angeles, another favorite. Next the tomato soup topped with creme fraiche from Celestino of Pasadena was light, yet had intense tomato flavor. The cold summer squash soup from Mexikosher of Los Angeles, was sweet, yet spicy with jalapeños; a crowd favorite. Mexican? Kosher? it works!
May 2017-MOT-rosebowl-HyperionPublic-by-rbilow
Cusiine provided by Hyperion Public; Photo by Richard Bilow;

The Asian steak lettuce cups with caramel glaze, bacon coleslaw, pickled carrots, cilantro and a little gem lettuce cup were very delicious from Hyperion Public of Silverlake and Studio City. The Korean inspired fried chicken wings topped with sesame seeds from Belly Bombs of Artesia were sweet and spicy and full of flavor! The beef carpaccio with tonnato fennel tops and blossoms were yummy from Louise's which has three locations: Santa Monica, West LA and Larchmont Village. Another stand out was the Soupe de petit pois called Spring - English pea soup with mint and pea tendrils - tasted exactly like its name! From Church and Sate of downtown Los Angeles.

And now for some amazing desserts: Sprinkles cupcakes of Beverly Hills were delicious - I couldn't choose between the red velvet or the dark chocolate so I ate them both! The bacon doughnuts from Cafe Dulce of Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles and also Alameda Street - yum!
May 2017-MOT-rosebowl-CafeDulce-bacondoughnuts-by-KLeonardo
Bacon Dougnuts by Cae Dulce; photo by Kathy Leonardo

And Helados Pops Icecream of San Fernando came in unusual and exotic flavors like Horchata and Tamarindo - cool and refreshing! A great way to end an awesome afternoon...and not a cloud in the sky. Be sure to check the website so you don't miss next year's event. https://mastersoftastela.com/

Food Festivals - A Great Way to Try New Restaurants!

On July 2, Wescom Credit Union presented the 2017 Culver City Centennial Westside Food & Wine Festival at the Courtyard by Marriott Los Angeles Westside in Culver City. Wescom Credit Union coordinated the event with Todd Elliot Entertainment and Event Planning. It was a lovely venue - featuring both inside and outside locations with live music, a strolling magician, and delicious food from a variety of restaurants. The event benefitted two important nonprofits - Culver City Council PTA's Backpacks for Kids Program and Culver Palms Meals on Wheels.

As a foodie, I usually scope out the room, strategize my route, and ready my taste buds with a glass of wine. I discovered Obvious Wines, a brand new company founded just two months ago and already selling in twenty stores.
1-CCFoodevent-courtesyof-ObviouswinesFrom left to right: Obvious Wines team, Marketing Manager Nasha Wallin (wife of Brice Baillie), Founder, Brice Baillie and Sales and Business Development Manager Anne Stark; photo courtesy of Obvious Wines

Owner Brice Baillie was pouring a delicious red blend made in Pasos Robles. Nº 01 Dark & Bold features 51% Cabernet Sauvignon and 49% Merlot. I love the full bodied, smooth, fruit forward flavor...delish! Marketing Manager Nasha Wallin (wife of Brice Baillie) was running an "expression board" and encouraged visitors to take a sip and leave a couple of words describing the wine. I thought it was a great idea.

Baillie grew up in Champagne, France, surrounded by wine lovers. Although he did not work in the industry in France, he always loved wine and after he moved to California, he soon realized he had a desire to help others love it too. Many of his friends said they found that selecting wines was an intimidating process. "That's how I came up with the idea," said Baillie. "Create a wine brand that helps educate those interested in learning more about wine in a simple, non-intimidating way with straight forward, yet valuable taste descriptions and characteristics." Visit the website to find out where to purchase Obvious Wines. http://www.obviouswines.com
2-ccfood-panninikabobgrillFrom left to right: Panini Kabob Grill servers Heidy Mejia and Wendy Lizarraga dish up some delicious cuisine created by Chef Rogelio Quinones (in back); photo by Richard Bilow

Next I was greeted by Juliet Tran, Director of Marketing for Panini Kabob Grill, who told me about the two newest locations that recently open - Santa Monica and Playa Del Rey....with another one in Century City soon to open in a few weeks. She said she loved participating in these types of events. "It's so nice hearing people rave about the food if they've already been to our restaurant. If they haven't, it's fun seeing them try it for the first time and seeing that 'OMG, this is so good!' face."

I was right there with the latter group of people. The food was delicious, and such generous portions were given out. The chicken kabob with veggies was so tender. It was paired with tasty basmati rice, garbanzo hummus, tzatziki, and pita bread...I will definitely be visiting Panini Kabab Grill soon. The most recent to open in the Santa Monica location at 312 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, 90401...be sure to check the website for additional locations. Panini Kabab Grill recently had a name change from My Panini Café -visit http://www.paninikabobgrill.com/

We were invited to try a summer pasta dish by Emanuel Fiore, the chef and partner of Luciana Cucina Italiana, which opened a month ago. Offering a small menu featuring truffle inspired dishes, the restaurant and wine bar changes its menu every twenty days.
3-ccfood-Luciana-Cucina-Italiana-72-550Summer pasta from Luciana Cucina Italiana; photo by Richard Bilow

The orecchiette pasta was served with cherry organic tomatoes, baby carrots, broccoli, basil, and mint in a delicious yogurt dressing. Luciana Cucina Italiana, 11800 Jefferson Blvd., Playa Vista, 90230; https://www.facebook.com/MammaMiadaluciana/

Located in Culver City, Public School 310 (PS 310) made quite an impression on many of the attendees including myself. Randy Naegele, General Manager, was serving food along with Magdelena Sheskier (a hostess at the restaurant).

The Ahi Tuna Poke with sweet chili vinaigrette, passion fruit puree, and pickled cucumbers was so refreshing and delicately spiced...it was served with house cut taro chips.

Naegele said he enjoyed doing events. "We are in talks with our friends at the Culver City Exchange Club to sponsor the Beer Garden at the Centennial Celebration on September 16th at Veteran's Park."
4-ccfood-publicschool310-RandyNaegele-MaritzaFrom left to right: General Manager Randy Naegele, with Hostess Magdelena Sheskier; photo by Richard Bilow

Naegele said he was happy that everyone really enjoyed the Ahi. "A few people enjoyed it so much they came to the restaurant immediately following the event!! What a compliment!" Public School 310, 9411 Culver Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232; 310.558.0414; http://www.psontap.com/

Near the close of the event, I struck up a conversation with the founder of teaRIOT, Laura Jakobsen. Her fresh juice infused tea was simply magnificent. I tried all the flavors - my favorite was Cider Kick.

teaRIOT began on May 22nd of 2016...starting in farmers' markets in the LA area. Now, a year later, the public can purchase it in Erewhon Markets and Whole Foods in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada. http://tearit.com/
5-ccfood-teariot-72550From left to right: teaRIOT founder, Laura Jakobsen and Danica Ancell (marketing); photo by Richard Bilow

The event was fantastic. I especially enjoyed the cuisine from LA Gastronomy, Mayura Indian Restaurant, Ococoa Chocolates, Pitfire Pizza, just to name a few. Food festivals are always a great way to experience new tastes from a variety of restaurants I will gladly be visiting several of the restaurants in the near future.

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!"
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