Monday, June 12, 2017

Where to Travel: The Tropicale @ Palm Springs

The Destination: An indoor / outdoor restaurant dishing out first-class Pacific Rim cuisine

The Location: Palm Springs

The Vibes:
Upscale, with a Polynesian themed décor

Good for: Alone, dates, groups (large and small)

When-To-Go: Daily, 4 p.m. – 10 p.m. (Sundays – Thursdays) / 11 p.m. (Fridays & Saturdays)

The $$ Factor: Small plates, $10 – $26; Entrees, $19 – $39; Cocktails, $12 - $15

The 4-1-1: A nightclub called Copa is right next door, if you don’t want your night to end after dinner here

Parking Situation:
Nearby free street parking

I’ll Be Back…: For the Tangerine-Glazed Mandarin Calamari!

Without any hesitation, I would drive the 107 miles from Los Angeles to Palm Springs just to get the calamari at The Tropicale.

And I did.


Within a two-week span.

Here's the thing. Making this popular seafood delicacy taste fresh and tender – and not overcooked or masking its flavor by over-frying it – is challenging. Many restaurants may try to step up to the challenge, but unfortunately fail. Miserably. It’s so disappointing to order calamari, and it ends up being tough, chewy and downright a waste of money and calories.

That’s why the Tangerine-Glazed Mandarin Calamari, pictured below, at The Tropicale is such a game changer. Rather than fried like at so many places, it's sautéed with chives and bell peppers and tossed in a light, and slightly sweet marinade that has hints of ginger and citrus. In addition to such a remarkable flavor, the meat itself is the perfect consistency; the calamari rings are plump and juicy, the tentacles light and crispy. It's literally some of the best calamari I've had, ever!

And while The Tropicale’s calamari is most certainly my fave (at least so far), I’d be remiss not to mention some of the other noteworthy dishes found here, which seem to each have its own unique little fiery personality.

The Jack Daniel’s BBQ’d Baby Back Ribs, picture below, are so tender, they literally fall right. off. the. bone. The ribs come with Nana Claira’s Piccalilly Relish — a pickled assortment of veggies like bell peppers and carrots. The relish is awesome and gives the meat a tangy, vinegary kick.

Another noteworthy small plate: The Pupu Platter, pictured below. This meat-heavy sampler selection has a little bit of everything, featuring mini-sized proportions five other small plates: the coconut tiger shrimp, Thai chicken satay, Korean beef skewers, “Shanghai” ribs and Vietnamese spring rolls.

On my latest trek to The Tropicale over the weekend, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was the Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week. As one of the 100+ restaurants participating in the ten-day event taking place June 2 – 11, The Tropicale was offering a $39 three-course dinner comprising one of three starters, one of three main courses and then finally, one of three desserts.

Big enough to share between two people, we indulged in the Spicy Thai Barbecued Curry Ribs as a starter, which were crunchy on the outside, but moist on the inside, and doused in a phenomenal citrus flavor. 

With a roasted medley of round petite potatoes, silky green beans and savory bacon bits, the Butterflied Idaho Lake Trout felt more rustic and hearty than tropical, like so many of the other options on the menu, but I’m definitely not complaining, because it was still tasty and super filling. 

We ended on a sweet note, opting to try the banana chocolate gelato in a chocolate waffle. Thin slabs of rich, decadent dark chocolate were dispersed between creamy gelato — talk about melting in your mouth!

So the next time you find yourself in the Coachella Valley, don't hesitate to swing by The Tropicale to feast on some scrumptious calamari — and other Pacific Rim-inspired culinary creations. 

See you there soon!

For more information: 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Wilson’s Words of Wisdom: May Round Up

Each birthday, it’s been an ongoing tradition to treat myself to a luxurious Spa Day. So in honor of my beautiful born day, for this month’s round up, here are three top-notch spas I’ve visited over the years and have fallen in love with. Best of all, they’ve frequently had TravelZoo vouchers available, so you can indulge in a bit of extravagance at a discounted price.

Check out why I love them so much below, and don’t forget to drop your favorite spa destinations in the comments section, too!

Where to Be Merry: The Spa Le Merigot @ JW Marriott Santa Monica

Situated on prime real estate in Santa Monica, Le Merigot is a day spa that offers massage treatments, a gorgeous pool and easy access to the beach. The few times I’ve gone, it’s never been too crowded and feels like a tranquil getaway that mainly only JW Marriott hotel guests know about. The spa's actual physical space is on the smaller side, but still elegant and upscale. There’s attention to detail everywhere — in the earthy floral scent that wafts throughout the space, the comfy white robes provided for each guest and the refreshing cool towels with cucumbers available in the locker rooms, which also have a sauna and steam room. The massage treatments themselves are pretty good, too. When I went, my masseuse worked out all of my knots and focused on pressure points. I left feeling beyond relaxed!

For more information

Where to Be Merry: The Spa @ Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village

Now onto what’s literally the granddaddy of all spas. The Spa @ Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village is beyond massive — situated on almost an acre of land — and beyond decadent — I’m talking marble floors, fresh cut floral arrangements, Romanesque statues and Japanese-inspired artwork at every twist and turn.

While the standard spa amenities such as the whirlpools, steam rooms and changing rooms are certainly magnificent and everything you’d imagine them to be at a five-star resort, IMO the best space is a small sitting area right outside the changing rooms. The area has an indoor stream (yes, that’s right – and indoor stream) and warmed chaise lounge chairs covered by blankets, so you can recline and relax, or, like me, dose off and catch a few z’s.

Aside from the spa facilities, you can also enjoy a very large pool, along with poolside dining and libations, and tranquil Japanese gardens. It’s literally the ultimate mini-vacay experience and definitely the place to spend an entire day — and not one minute less — getting pampered!

For more information

Where to Be Merry: Mr. C Spa & Beauty @ Mr. C Beverly Hills

This quaint and secluded spa in the Beverlywood residential neighborhood is über boutique; it offers only two treatment rooms and two private changing rooms. Hands down, the completely private changing rooms are Mr. C Spa & Beauty's best selling point, though, especially when you’re looking to get some quiet alone time and don’t feel like dealing with large crowds. Each room includes a shower that doubles as a steam room, a sink and vanity area, a chair…plus slippers, a robe and a cute display of gourmet tea and bite-sized nibbles. You can lounge in here both before and after your services.

Speaking of services, my masseuse Liam hooked. it. up. Aside from giving a great massage, he explained why certain massage techniques worked, from an anatomical perspective. Ask for him, if you go!

Spa guests also have access to the outdoor pool area, where, if you book on TravelZoo, you can enjoy a complimentary Bellini (otherwise, as a heads up, you have to have order a $50 minimum food & beverage tab at the pool). With a nod to old Hollywood glam but still super low-key, Mr. C is a welcomed mini urban escape, right in the heart of L.A.

For more information

Monday, May 22, 2017

Where to Be Merry: The “Kerry James Marshall: Mastry” Exhibition @ MOCA Grand Avenue

The Merriment:
A museum exhibition featuring almost 80 fascinating works of art, created by artist Kerry James Marshall 
during his 35-year career

The Location: Downtown

The Vibes: Insightful, inspiring, sobering, thought-provoking

Good for: Alone, groups (large and small), dates, families

When-To-Go: Daily, except Tuesdays; the Mastry exhibition is currently up and running until July 3

The $$ Factor: $15 general admission; $8 - $10 for students and seniors, respectively; free for MOCA members, children (aged 12 and younger) and jurors

The Names behind the scenes: Artist Kerry James Marshall, MOCA Chief Curator Helen Molesworth, 
Associate Curator Ian Alteveer,  Guest Curator Dieter Roelstraete

The 4-1-1: Admission is also free every Thursday, 5 – 8 p.m.

Parking Situation: Nearby metered parking and parking structures

I’ll Be Back…: Because a couple of hours simply wasn’t enough to see everything!

What's your morning work commute ritual like?

For me, during my 15-minute drive, I hastily scarf down my breakfast, expertly apply make up, methodically scroll through emails...

And of course, I tune into my favorite radio station, NPR, to get a quick fix on the latest news and to find out what’s happening in the world. 

One crisp March morning, I caught an NPR special all about Kerry James Marshall — a black artist who has dedicated his 35-year career to creating more representations of African-Americans within the art world. Born in Birmingham, Alabama and raised in South Central L.A., Marshall uses a wide range of Western art techniques along with a variety of different mediums — from paintings to prints and collages — to bring glimpses into the daily lives, dreams, tragedies and resilience of black people around the nation.

The NPR special had mentioned that after stints in Chicago and New York City, the Kerry James Marshall: Mastry exhibition featuring almost 80 art pieces had now reached L.A., where it will reside at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in DTLA until July 3.

Completely intrigued and curious to see some of these works in person, I visited the exhibit a few weeks later.

And, I was blown away! 

Multiple rooms in MOCA hold all types of artwork you could ever imagine — photographs capturing snapshots of life in the ‘70s; acrylic and oils portraying graceful men and women; even scenes on illuminated light boxes from Marshall’s graphic-novel project Rhythm Mastr (1999 – present; one scene is below), which tells the story of a superhero teenager who fights crime around Chicago with his friends.

Personally, I loved seeing scores of the big, bright murals that almost stretched from ceiling to floor. Through them, Marshall challenges social stereotypes and assumptions through the juxtaposition of images and the tiniest of details in these larger-than-life scenes. For instance, while housing projects can often be seen as dangerous and undesirable places to live, a set of these murals turns this notion on its head. Brilliantly rich colors, glorious sunbeams, palm trees and blue birds holding ribbons with different sayings make housing projects seem inviting and welcoming, such as in Watts 1963 (1995, pictured below), where children gaze back, standing and sitting sit in front of the buildings. 

Marshall’s artwork turns every day, mundane scenarios into significant moments of importance, too. In both De Style (1993) and School of Beauty, School of Culture (2012, pictured below), he vividly captures the spirit of what it's like to visit a barber shop and a beauty salon — two places that have been a cornerstone of African-American culture and tradition, for countless decades. 

His artwork also depicts the potential of dreams and future hopes. In his Vignette series such as in Untitled Vignette (2012, pictured below), modeling after 18th-century French rococo illustrations, he tenderly captures the budding romance between young adults, within the backdrop of urban landscapes and typical symbols of love, like pink and red hearts, flowers and birds.

But, all is not sunshine and roses; Marshall intentionally makes political statements and social commentary. The colors of the Pan-African flag — red, black and green — are woven throughout many of his pieces. The Lost Boys (1993, pictured below) is a sobering homage to the untimely loss of so many children’s lives to gun violence.

My favorite, hands down, is Untitled (Club Couple) (2014), which shows a young couple in love excitedly beaming at us. The lightheartedness, the thrill, the excitement — it’s all there — along with the fact that we’re in on a secret with the gentleman, a pleasant surprise that’s going to change both of their lives forever. 

I could go on and on about all the reasons why I loved the Mastry exhibition, but I’ll simply end by saying that what captivated me the most about Marshall's works is the subtle yet undeniable beauty that radiates from the characters within his art. Silent, ebony faces stare back at us — sometimes defiantly, sometimes coyly, sometimes smiling — but always with grace and strength, and always with this intense demand to be seen. Marshall has done such an amazing job of bringing a sense of importance to the multi-faceted black American experience, turning it into meaningful and long-lasting, beautiful art. 

So, the next time you're in the mood to wander through a museum to take in great art for a few hours one day, I highly recommend checking out this exhibition. Don't wait too long, though, as it's only here until early July.

See you there soon!

For more information: