Friday, December 30, 2011

Miss Wilson’s Words of Wisdom: Top 11 of 2011

In these last days of 2011, I’ve stumbled upon countless “Top Lists” being published in magazines, on the internet, on television shows.  So, I figured I might as well throw my two cents into the mix as well! 

I’ve subsequently drafted the fabulous, amazing Top 11 of 2011 “Where To” List, which highlights what I consider to be some of the best moments in LA’s social/restaurant/nightlife scene from these past 12 months. From one-year anniversary celebrations to lots of FREE cultural activities and plenty of incredible bargain restaurant steals, there was quite a lot to savor and cherish.

Take a trip down this past year’s memory lane and muse over the places you’ve already tried – or just might need to try in the New Year!

#11) Where to Drink: Nirvana: This past spring, the Beverly Hills Indian lounge launched its own version of happy hour, Bliss Hour. Delicious dishes that were normally $25 dropped to $6; potent cocktails that averaged $12 were now $6, and they fortunately didn’t compromise flavor or potency in the price reduction. These discounts paired with Nirvana’s breathtaking Eastern aesthetics – a 700-pound Cambodian bust statue, kama sutra art and an indoor waterfall – made it one of the best places to spend an intimate evening on the Westside.

#10) Where to Be Merry: The Foxxhole Live, hosted by Mark Curry: What do Keyshia Cole, my husband Tyrese, Teedra Moses, Macy Gray and El DeBarge all have in common? Aside from being talented recording artists, they’ve all performed at this poppin’ Monday night R&B jam session held at LA LIVE’s Conga Room. Created by Jamie Foxx and hosted by Mark Curry, Foxxhole is the music industry’s sexy, grown-up version of your high school talent show. Platinum-selling artists step to the stage, right alongside aspiring singers who can blow. Plus there’s the live band The Foxxhole Players and a sleuth of comedians who keep you entertained well into the wee hours of the morning. I found myself heading there quite a few times this year, especially to give my out-of-town guests a little flavor of what LA is really like, aside from the Hollywood sign and the beach. 

#9) And Where Do You “Where To?”: Brian McKnight: Around Valentine’s Day, GRAMMY-nominated R&B singer Brian McKnight held a FREE concert at Avalon Hollywood. The brotha went all out for his show, and I do mean all out! He played not one, but two instruments – the piano and guitar – sang with his sons, shared intimate stories explaining his songwriting process, and he even brought a lucky lady onstage to serenade and present with gorgeous red roses. And while it was most certainly a special night, it became even better when I had a chance to do an exclusive interview with him, which you can still read here, if you haven’t already.

#8) Where to Eat: A-Frame: I can’t image life without “Chu-Don’t-Know-Mang” churros. I mean, really, how did I ever survive before discovering them? Culver City’s A-Frame may have opened in 2010, but it celebrated its 1st anniversary this past November, thereby securing it a spot on this list. It’s hard enough launching a new restaurant, let alone successfully making it to the one-year mark. Kudos to this Roy Choi brainchild, where a fusion of Asian and American tastes and aesthetics blend together to make an unforgettable dining – and cocktail-sipping – experience.

#7) Where to Drink: Bar 1886: This is yet another establishment that celebrated its one-year anniversary in November, although technically, you could say it opened in 1886 and stayed closed for a few centuries. After a massive renovation and input from a few celebrity mixologists, Bar 1886 came back with a bang. The Pasadena drinking parlor served tons of artistic old-fashioned cocktails, similar to those kinds of cocktails that have wound up at many bars these past couple of years. But, unlike other places where there might be standing room only – and in my opinion, what makes Bar 1886 a lot more appealing – here it’s a little more subdued and intimate, a littler quieter. The ambiance, the service, the beverages makes the trek here quite worth it, even if you’re as far away as the best side, the Westside. 

#6) Where to Be Merry: The Falls: Great vibes, great music, great people, great cocktails. Case closed. I have no idea when this lounge emerged or how long it’s been chillin’ on downtown’s Spring Street, but I am ever so glad I stumbled upon it one breezy April night after frolicking around at the downtown artwalk series. Drop by The Falls for a couple of minutes or make it your Saturday night destination…come in your sandals, or get primped up to party. Who cares? As long as you’re having a good time, nothing else seems to really matter here. It’s a lounge where reasonably priced libations and good music stay in, and all of the B.S. like cover charges stay out – the kind of place where you’ll make new friends and most likely run into a few old ones, too. 

#5) Where to Eat: Osaka: A South American favorite finally headed north for the States this past fall! As a huge fan of the Buenos Aires one, I was more than thrilled to find out that Osaka had headed to Hollywood. Aside from the standard Peruvian-Japanese favorites like the “Tiraditos and Ceviche,” and signature Pisco cocktails found at most other Osakas, this LA location introduced a few exclusive highlights of its own: an airy Pisco Garden and a darkly handsome front bar area. It’s interesting to see how rather recently, the city’s seen a surge in the popularity of premium Peruvian cuisine, and I’d confidently say Osaka is a top contender!

#4) Where to Be Merry: Posing Beauty in African-American Culture @ The USC Fisher Museum / Pacific Standard Time @ The CSUN Art Galleries: ::Sigh:: College days may have come and gone, but that didn’t stop me from going to two university campuses this past fall. Both the University of Southern California (USC) and California State University Northridge (CSUN) had art institutions that featured stellar - and FREE - photo exhibits.

The USC Fisher Museum’s “Posing Beauty in African-American Culture” boldly demanded us to examine what has been considered gorgeous/stunning/hot in African-American culture since the 1890s up until today with images taken from Curator Deborah Willis’ POSING BEAUTY: African American Images From the 1890s to the Present book. 

In conjunction with the larger Pacific Standard Time series going at 60+ SoCal art institutions, the CSUN Art Galleries launched its “Identity & Affirmation, Post War African-American Photography exhibit,” giving us telling glimpses into the diverse experiences for Black Angelenos during the 1940s-1980s.

But just as those college partying days had to end, unfortunately, both of these photo exhibits closed earlier this month. Hopefully, these universities will have more interesting exhibits in the future!

#3) And Where Do You “Where To?”: Adrienne Maloof: Christmas is one of the best holidays of the year, so when The Abbey decided to celebrate Christmas early at its “6th Annual Christmas in September” Toy Drive, it was most certainly a memorable moment in 2011. The iconic West Hollywood restaurant/lounge went all out with lavish holiday decorations by its roaring fireplace, lots of falling snow, hot Santa Helpers with ripped, washboard abs and complimentary green and red cocktails. Adrienne Maloof, whom I briefly interviewed, graciously hosted the entire affair, stressing the importance of giving toys as donations for the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. Giving back and putting a smile on the kiddies’ faces… now that’s the real spirit of the season – and of the year! 

#2) Where to Be Merry: Annenberg Space for Photography: In 2011, the Space hosted two timely exhibits: “Extreme Exposure,” which featured shots of remote nature landscapes, and “Beauty Culture,” a compelling exhibit on beauty in mainstream culture. This Century City photography center may have only opened a couple of years ago, but it’s proving exhibit after exhibit after exhibit that it is one of the city’s most prominent – and most accessible – places to see amazing photos and to also interact with the top photographers of the day. There are the mind-boggling photos, but then there are also the captivating videos, interactive stations, guest lecturers and special events, all of which are FREE. The Space has truly been an exceptional and needed resource to the SoCal community!

#1) Where to Be Merry: Zumba Classes at InterContinental Los Angeles Century City: The InterContinental took the definition of working out to new heights…literally! For the second summer in a row, the Century City hotel offered its Zumba Classes on its helipad, 18 stories above ground. Classes were small, so you could get personalized attention to making sure you had those Zumba steps completely on point; classes were reasonably priced, at free for hotel guests and $15 for non-hotel guests. But most importantly, classes were fun. I completely forgot I was working out; I was too busy admiring the fabulous view I had of all of Los Angeles! 

Sure, the festivities that 2011 brought along might be hard to beat, but I’m sure 2012 will manage to do it somehow. 

See you at one of these places soon, and of course, Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Where To Be Merry: Eating, Drinking and Socializing @ The Churchill


 “The lines between inside and out blur,” Brian, an old friend/former colleague/fellow blogger, murmured. 

“Yes,” I nodded my head. “You’re absolutely right.”

We casually stood on the second level of The Churchill, intently gazing out towards the bar area on the bottom floor. A petite lady curiously glanced at us as she walked by. A gentleman, who might have been a waiter or a manager, warily watched us after we stood in the same position for more than a mere moment in time.

“But no, no, no,” I impatiently shook my head. “It’s
more than that.”

“What else?” Brian prodded.

“It’s…it’s…” I struggled to find the right words that would properly describe what this place was. After a few moments, it struck me:

“It’s like we’re in a loft, in downtown,” I finally spewed out. “It feels as if we’re 18 stories above ground, looking out onto Spring Street...or 7th Ave.”

Brian digested what I had just proposed. Finally, he said: “You’re absolutely right. That’s it. Downtown vibes and blurred distinctions between indoors and outdoors. I like it. There you go.”

Satisfied, we skipped down the stairs lined with tea candles to exit and be on our merry ways after a lovely weekday dinner at this new L.A. gastropub.

The Churchill recently opened in October, and while it may only be blocks away from the Beverly Center, after one step inside, it’s rather quite easy to imagine that you’ve been transported to downtown. It’s the brick walls, the exposed steel beams and the worn industrial windows. It’s the menu of old-fashioned artisan cocktails and the antique knick-knacks, similar to the ones that you’d find in The Varnish or The Edison. Yet while The Churchill has the charm and nostalgic quaintness of downtown establishments, it also proudly boasts the refined amenities that come with a Westside address: ample valet options, cheery, bubbly storefronts and pedestrian-friendly streets, even late at night. I liked it immediately.

But just like how I struggled to figure out what this place reminded me of, I struggled to place it into a specific “where to eat,” or “where to drink” category, since it has such spectacular drinks and unique food options, plus a very vibrant social scene. So I figured “screw it” and threw it under the “where to be merry” description!

Get your drink on at the bustling bar area where bartenders skillfully crafting cocktails like the Clementine, pictured to the right, a sweet blend of triple sec, vodka and other fruity flavors. Chow down in the dining area, on items like one of my favorites, the duck pizza with caramelized onions, fresh parsley and a balsamic drizzle, pictured below…Partake in the whole lounge experience upstairs, where I’ve seen many couples and groups of friends cozily bundled up on a leather bench or in a booth, engrossed in their conversations. And I can’t fail to mention the outdoor dining area, where eating, drinking and lounging seem to harmoniously coincide, amidst a delightful fireplace, potted plants and inviting booths.

OK, so I don’t mean to sound shallow, but between me and you, The Churchill also packs a good-looking group of people as well. If it’s not the waiters whisking food to tables in their dapper attire, it’s the patrons in their crisp button-downs and latest fall boots. Everyone seems to know how to dress, as if that’s an unspoken requirement for entry. The first time I was ever invited here, I mean, as much as my octopus salad and charcuterie spread kept my eyes dancing with joy, I couldn’t help but sneak peaks at the hot waiter who kept the dishes flowing.

In a nutshell, I go to The Churchill for those times when I’m looking for a downtown vibe, but still feel like staying on the Westside. Or those times when I want to catch up for hours with an old-time friend like Brian, in an inviting, comfortable atmosphere, paired with quality cocktails and unique dining options.

So the next time you’re looking for any of these like myself, I highly recommend The Churchill. Perhaps I’ll see you there soon! 

Miss Wilson’s Tips (So you know “What’s Up” when you go): 

- The parking deal: valet is available, or scramble to find limited metered parking on 3rd Street and the surrounding streets.
- Where to sit: Try the outdoor patio at least once. Glass walls connecting the patio to the rest of the gastropub allow you to see the action going on inside, all while soaking in the action happening on the street.
- Open for breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner. Take that, take that!
- Ahhhh, there’s a late night happy hour, too, beginning at 10pm.
- Photo booth. On the 2nd floor. Do it.
- Fun, friendly fact: The Churchill is actually the second establishment for Beau Laughlin and Brett Cranston, the creators behind the West Hollywood popular spot, The Hudson.

For more information: 
The Churchill
8384 West 3rd Street 
Los Angeles, CA 90048 

Friday, December 9, 2011

And Where Do You “Where To”: Wines With Toni

The spirit of the holiday season has demandingly settled upon us!
 Lights must be strung on roofs, kids must cheese it up with Santa, creamy eggnog must now be consumed in large quantities…

And of course, there’s the daunting task of buying gifts for family members, friends, acquaintances, colleagues, clients…your boss, your mechanic, your brother’s obnoxious girlfriend and like, 20 other people you don’t really like and/or know, without breaking the bank in the process.

So with the hectic holiday commotion slightly stressing me out, my mind turned to wine – wine to give as a gift, and wine to savor after battling checkout lines packed with savage shoppers.

While back in April I met with Corkbar owner Caleb Wines to discuss popular spring wines, this fall/winter season, I turned to the exceptional wine guru herself, Toni Staton Harris, a Los Angeles based author/writer/blogger who runs a very informative (and fun!) blog, Wines With Toni.

We initially met at the Blogging While Brown Conference this past summer and kept in touch over the following months. In all this time, I’ve appreciate her vast knowledge – and love – for wine, and she has helped me to discover the wines I like most through extensive conversations and friendly trips to Ugo Wine Bar in Culver City.

So if you’re like me – looking to expand your wine knowledge, and wildly curious to know what wines to sip these chilly evenings and which wines to gift – read on, and learn some wise and useful tips from Toni!

Miss Wilson: As an introduction to everyone, 
what is your blog all about and how did you get started?
Toni Staton Harris: I have two blogs. My first blog is Wine With Toni, which features recommendations, experiences, destinations about wine all over the world. One of the things that I was just telling you that I’m really excited about is a new feature coming soon by the end of December where I will actually wine style people. That means they give me their name, their email address, answer five questions about things they like in life, and I will actually recommend great wines that I know will be specific to them and their palate. I love Wine With Toni because it really is a shared experience about wine. I don’t profess to know everything about wine because one can’t. There are millions of varieties; there are a 1,001 brands, and the thing about wine is, it’s always a journey. It’s always a discovery and it’s always a shared experience. And that’s what I want to make sure comes across in the blog. It’s not authoritative; it’s more a shared experience because I take recommendations from people.

The second one is called Checkin’ Up and Checkin’ in with Toni Staton Harris and this is my hot topics blog where I share my opinions and I talk about your opinions about a number of hot topics that affect our lives daily. I talk about anything and everything here. I talk about film, TV, food wine…anything that tickles my fancy. I check up on you, find out what’s going on with you, and I check in with you, to tell you what’s going on with me. That’s actually a very new blog that just started a month ago.

I said I have two blogs...I actually have two and half, because the third one I write with a blog partner is called Girl TD. That is a lifestyle, fashion, relationship blog where we focus on issues that arise from the television show The Game. Like tomorrow we have a post coming out that I’m doing called: “Divorce. Who Gets the Friends?” Everybody talks about the kids, everybody talks about the house, the dog, but who gets the friends? People don’t often realize that friendships and relationships outside of the marriage are deeply affected by divorce as well. So that’s the stuff I like to talk about.

Miss Wilson: Nice! So now, let’s talk wine…
Toni Staton Harris: [Laughing] Let’s talk wine!

Miss Wilson: How do you have all of this knowledge about it?
Toni Staton Harris: A lot of informal study, a lot of tasting, a lot of reading the bottle. I have this saying: read what you see. Reading the bottle will teach you so much about the wine – the temperature it’s supposed to be served at, what foods it pairs well with, what notes are incorporated into it.

I do a lot of exploring, but I think the biggest reason why I retain a lot of information is because I’m open to the possibilities. I don’t believe that I know everything about wine. I believe that wine comes with infinite possibilities. I listen. I talk. I have my own opinions and sometimes they change, sometimes they don’t. I recognize that it is a journey and it’s a process. I’ve been dealing with wine and figuring out what I like for at least 15 years now. It’s about exploring, tasting and opening your mind to the possibilities of what it’s all about, and knowing what you like.

Miss Wilson: I know in our previous conversations you mentioned that you can get a good bottle of wine for under $25. How does that work? How is that possible?
Toni Staton Harris: That’s a wonderful question. First of all, my median range for pricing is $10. If I pay $20 for a bottle of wine, it’s because I absolutely love it.

Wine doesn’t have to be expensive. As we all know, wine is very subjective. It’s all about your palate – what you like, what you like to taste. So price doesn’t denote quality. Just because something is a high-priced wine doesn’t mean that it is a quality wine. Or, it doesn’t mean that you’ll like it. Price is not the determinant for a great glass of wine. A great glass of wine is what’s good to you.

There was a time when wine was considered of the snobs’ drink or inaccessible, because people didn’t really understand it. But now, you can try wines by the bottle, by the gallon, by the box – whatever – and find out what you actually like by giving yourself clues. What you like in life, you’ll like in wine. You like honey in life? You’ll probably like a nice honey-based, vanilla-based, strong note chardonnay. If you like spice, you’ll like perhaps a shiraz, an Australian shiraz.

So because wine is so competitive, it’s very easy to find great wine for $10 a pop or under. It’s just a matter of going into your wine bars, going into your wine stores like Total Wine and BevMo and places like that. They have thousands of brands, thousands of wines. Once you figure out your grape, go for it.

Miss Wilson: Even if there’s not necessarily a price tag on good wine and it depends on your palate, is there a wine that you would say is popular for this season, for the fall?
Toni Staton Harris: I like to drink red wines in the winter and white wines in the summer. I like a full-bodied, heavy-bodied red wine with a little spice, a little earthiness. 

Seasonal wines, especially in the fall, tend to be your Australian reds, your pinot noirs, your cabernet sauvignons, your shirazes, your syrahs. They make for great holiday gifts. They make for great sipping wine.

My go-to pinot noir is always Edna Valley, which is in San Luis Obispo. San Luis Obispo is taking names and kicking butt. Willamette Valley in Oregon is also taking names and kicking butt. And California needs to watch out for not only Willamette Valley in Oregon, but we need to watch out for Washington State, because they’re doing pinot noirs, they’re doing your cabs. They’re really coming after the Sonoma Valley market. Washington State does a cab called 14 Hands that’ll make you kick somebody and I take no responsibility for them kicking back. 

So spicy, bolder reds, flavorful reds. And there is a big difference between flavor and some basic elements like sugar. I just did a post on Wine With Toni, Sweet vs. Fruit Forward. A lot of novices as well as connoisseurs don’t really understand the difference between sweet and fruit forward.

Miss Wilson: So what is the difference?
Toni Staton Harris: Great question. Sweet is when the residual sugar of a wine is the star of the show. That’s the first thing you taste. It’s the main thing you taste, and the flavor is secondary or even tertiary to the actual wine. Meaning, white zinfandel is always going to be sweet, because white zinfandel is not actually a grape; it’s made up of residual sugar, residual grape pieces as well as added sugar, food coloring and water. That’s your white zinfandel. Your moscato is going to be sweet because you’re taking the ripened grape and you’re extracting sugar. Some winemakers are even adding sugar, not so much for the sweetness, but for the alcohol content, to raise it.

And we know sweet. Sweet is lemonade. Sweet is sweet tea. But a fruit-forward wine doesn’t necessarily have to be sweet. It just means that the fruit is the star of the show. You taste the burst of flavors. You taste the burst of grape or you taste the notes, like currant, blackberry, cherry. That’s more prominent in your mouth than the sugar.

It can be difficult to distinguish, and a not so pleasant way to determine if you’re drinking a fruit forward wine or a sweet wine is when you’re drinking the wine, close your nose and sip. If you taste sugar, you know you’re drinking a sweet wine. If you don’t necessarily taste sugar while you’re holding your nose but you taste something other than sugar, you’re probably drinking a fruit forward wine. It’s the same as the difference between cocoa and milk chocolate. Cocoa tastes like cocoa; milk chocolate tastes like sugar.

Miss Wilson: Would you say that there’s one wine that’s a classic wine – one that’s always and maybe always will be – a wine to appreciate?
Toni Staton Harris: That changes. Again, wine is so subjective that it really is about what you like. Very popular ten years ago, straight up, was your merlot and chardonnay. In the whites, chardonnay still remains the most popular wine consumed. However, the sauvignon blancs are steadily catching the chardonnays because people are starting to say, well just because I like white doesn’t mean I like only oaky. Maybe I don’t want oaky. Maybe I want more vanilla. Maybe I want more fruit. However, where merlot was your most popular – merlot and cab used to fight each other for popularity – pinot noir is taking over.

Now personally for me, I’m still a merlot girl. I just love it. So it really is about your personal taste. Pinot noir is definitely a safe bet and a contender up against merlot and cabernet. The thing about pinot noir is that it can be so complex, and people are often afraid of that wine. And that’s the one thing that my blog does. It demystifies all of that. I give you permission to explore and exchange information and not feel bad, guilty, or unknowledgeable about something that you’re tasting. I really do give you the permission to free yourself from the snobbishness and the mystery of wine, because it’s so accessible, and it should be.

But I would definitely say pinot noir and your sauvignon blancs and your chenin blancs, also known in South Africa as Steen, are really moving ahead in the white category.

Miss Wilson: You mentioned that wine is subjective several times, so I want to go back to something else you were talking about: wine as a holiday gift. Can wine make as a good holiday gift and if so, is there a safe one to choose, such as red or white?
Toni Staton Harris: If you know the person really well, it’s always great to go with the family of their favorite. You know Toni’s favorite pinot noir is Edna Valley, so I’m going to try maybe giving her a bottle of pinot noir from New Zealand…ecause I know she likes pinot noir and I want to gift her this wine, I’m going to give her something different.

But when you don’t know the person, don’t get caught up in anything. Give whatever you want them to have. Because the beauty of gifting wine is that you’ll either give the person something they like or something they don’t know. Even if it’s not their particular cup of tea, they’re having a little get-together, they can present that wine and pour it. So gifting wine is easy, but it’s also great because you are free to give whatever.

And that’s when price does make a consideration. For example, my birthday was in November and my girlfriend called me up. She said, “I want to give you that wine you were talking about that you wanted so badly.” And I said, “No, I’m not going to tell you what it is.” She said, “Why not? I want to buy it.” And I said, “Because it’s a $100 bottle of wine and it’s not worth it.” I’m not going to say the name, because you know, I don’t want to disparage somebody else’s taste. But to pay $100 for a bottle of wine for me is not really worth it, unless you are in a position that $100 is $10. Now somebody else may feel differently and great, good for you. You can afford to spend $300 for a bottle of wine during dinner? How about it. But that just doesn’t work for me.

But the beauty of gifting is first of all, it’s rare that the actual price of the wine is on the bottle, so you can buy a nice bottle of wine and you don’t have to have gone over $20. And it could be worth much more, in terms of taste.

Miss Wilson: Is there anything you want to add? I think we covered so much.
Toni Staton Harris: I would like to add a few simple tips:

Buy through the label.

Don’t be fooled by the fancy labels, the fancy names. If you’re not sure, pick up the bottle and read the back. If that doesn’t give you what you want to know, ask a clerk. Ask a winemaker. Ask somebody in the store.

Ask somebody for a recommendation: hey, have you tried…or what do you like?

Be open to the possibilities – the journey – and ask questions. Don’t be embarrassed by any questions that you ask, because nobody – even your master sommeliers – know everything about wine. They just don’t. We just can’t. We absolutely can’t. It’s so big, it’s so vast.

Miss Wilson: And like you said, it is very subjective. A sommelier might have spent years and years studying wine, but at the end of the day, it is what your mouth says.
Toni Staton Harris: Exactly, it’s what you like. So buy through the label. Don’t be intimidated by the label, the terms, or anything like that. Remember at the end of the day, like you just said, a good glass of wine is what’s good to you. And that’s about it.

Miss Wilson: That’s good – thank you!
Toni Staton Harris: You’re welcome!

For more information on Toni, visit her website 
or follow her on Twitter at @winewithtoni!

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Friday, December 2, 2011

And Where Do You “Where To?”: FREE Giveaway/Contest #3- WINNER

Thanks to everyone who submitted their favorite LA winter destinations over this past week! It was sooo much fun reading where everyone huddles up during this "terribly cold" Southern California winter!! 

Although it was a super tough, tough decision, a winner for the $50 gift certificate to the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza’s X Bar has been selected:

"Love, love, love The Grove for the holidays. A ginormous Christmas tree, holiday music and it snows in the P.M. Fun for all!"

I agree! Aside from having the usual shops and restaurants and such, The Grove really goes all out for the holiday season and works hard to make it feel like a genuine glitzy LA Christmas. It's a great destination to entertain and impress out-of-town guests, hyper little kids and quite honestly yourself too, if you want to get in the Christmas spirit as you buy gifts for the fam or take a leisurely stroll while window-shopping. Fun for all ages, and for all pocketbook sizes.

Here are some of the other spectacular entries that were submitted as well: 

May of Sherman Oaks: "My response is the W Hotel in Westwood. They have an ice skating rink, warmed cabanas with tv and spiked hot cocoa!"

@therealMattyMC: "Fav winter hangout is in Redondo Bch: HT Grill. Amazing outdoor patio w/huge firepit to sit around, meet locals, drink&smores!"

@StockMyGalley: "my fav winter hangout is Wood & Vine ... super cozy, great indoor fireplace & outdoor firepit to snuggle up to & tasty food!"

@MadeWomanMag: "But I'ma homebody in the my couch a valid entry??"

Also, a big THANK YOU to X Bar for donating the $50 gift certificate!