Monday, June 26, 2017

And Where Do You "Where To?": Washed Out @ The Microsoft Lounge

Earlier this month, I was invited to the Microsoft Lounge in Venice to check out brand new tunes from recording artist Washed Out.

Microsoft’s Music x Technology initiative, which is all about showcasing recording artists who use Microsoft technology to create music, took over the indoor-outdoor space to host the event, “Washed Out: New Album Release & Live Show Experience.”

We were treated to a sneak preview of Washed Out’s latest project and his third record — a visual music album entitled Mister Mellow, that will be released on June 30.

-- [Side note: New to Washed Out? Listen to some of his music here.] -- 

The affair was super classy, very millennial, definitely artsy and hipster. Bartenders made fancy craft cocktails; servers passed lavish out hors d’oeuvres, like bite-sized crispy pork belly on maple buns. About a hundred or so guests mingled on the patio and in the lounge area that had a modern-meets-nature feel — think soaring ceilings, exposed bricks and scores of Microsoft TV and tablet screens of all sizes — everywhere.

The highlight of the night was twofold: 

1) To hear from the team that helped bring Mister Mellow to fruition — including Microsoft exec Amy Sorokas, Washed Out (a.k.a. Ernest Greene) and his creative team.


2) Getting to see / hear the album before its official debut!

Greene opened up about how long it took to make the album — a little over a year — and how it reflects what’s been recently happening in his life, such as becoming a dad. He revealed his process of putting it all together, which included cutting out images in magazines and using cell phones to record some of the video.

Representing Microsoft, Amy Sorokas talked about how Microsoft’s goal in starting its Music x Technology initiative two years ago has been to highlight the “interesting” and “innovative” ways to use technology with music [another side note: this initiative has partnered with other talented folks, like Childish Gambino for his latest Awaken, My Love! album, which has been in heavy rotation in my Spotify account lately]. 

And Charlie Whitney, Washed Out's creative technologist, shared more about the Microsoft tech and programming used — including a three-Kinect setup and Roslyn APIs — and how tech “has gotten to the point where you could really do what you want.”

After the initial discussion, it was time for the other star of the night: Mister Mellow.

From a sound perspective, the 12-track album features chill, rhythmic, ambient tunes that have a ton of diverse undertones, like Bossa Nova, EDM and hip-hop.

From a visual perspective, it’s absolutely enchanting. Different mediums from Claymation to collaging and drawings complement each song, right down to synchronized tempos and beats. Scenes range from bright, light-hearted and vivid, to subdued and somber, and everything in between. There’s a track that takes viewers on a nostalgic, hilarious trip down memory lane to how our beloved city L.A. was like in the 1980’s; another track follows indiscernible characters solemnly walking down streets of recognizable cities around the world.

Visual albums aren’t new, but it’s absolutely amazing to get a firsthand glimpse and a better understanding of the technology that’s used to make it all happen. Towards the end of the night, all of the guests (including yours truly) even had a chance to test out the tech used to bring Mister Mellow's visual effects to life.

I walked away from the event thinking — man, this album would be so cool to have as a backdrop for a function, like a dinner party — and man, I really want the Kinect now, so I can make random, fun moves for my own videos.

What about you — have you experienced any noteworthy visual albums or any other out-of-the-box music experiences? Let me know in the comments section below!

More info: 

Greene will commemorate his new album with a nine-date “Get Lost” tour. Unfortunately, none of the shows will be in the L.A. area, but if you’ll be in the South sometime this summer, view his tour dates here


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