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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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.
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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!"
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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/

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

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!!!