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!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Amber. I'll be sure to check out A-Frame, asap!