Friday, May 27, 2011

Where to Eat: Culinary Adventures @ Vū Restaurant

Chefs dabble in the kitchen with many different intentions and purposes. Some chefs make food that’s meant to be reminiscent of homemade classics, as if these meals came directly from your mother’s kitchen. Other chefs design fare that’s meant to be gawked at, digested with your eyes first, your stomach second. Others prepare dishes that are solely meant to momentarily satisfy our natural, instinctual cravings of hunger – nothing more, nothing less.

Well Executive Chef Kyle Schutte at Marina del Rey’s Vū Restaurant falls into a completely separate, special category of his own. It’s like he creates food that’s meant to take your taste buds on a wild, off-the-beaten-track, windy, twist-and-turn, never-know what’s-around-the-next-bend, adventurous ride. Ingredients that you’d never imagine together are suddenly united to create funky, sophisticated new tastes. Exhibit A: pink lemonade and mayonnaise merge together to create a faintly sweet topping for the Calamari small plate (pictured above to the right).

Or let’s discuss the Pork Belly small plate. A timeless American dessert – jello – meets a timeless American beverage – root beer – to become root beer jello, the topping for the pork belly and crispy grits (pictured to the left). I was hesitant to try it at first, but it is amazing. The crunchy grits and sweet topping almost remind me of a hearty breakfast option. Another one of my favorites is the “Reconstructed” Caprese Salad (pictured at the top left). Bite-sized cherry tomatoes filled with balsamic vinegar are enclosed by a layer of thin, basil-infused mozzarella. Pop them into your mouth for an exciting burst of creamy flavors.

Schutte also has the whole presentation concept down to a tee. His visual ingenuity is no more evident than in the Sea Scallops entrée, which seriously looks like it belongs on display in an art exhibit (pictured to the right). The placement of the micro basil, tomato caviar and all of the other colorful delicacies will make you pause for a moment before inhaling the buttery scallops.

While there are more traditional options such as the ½ Pound Burger on the menu, for the most part, you’re not going to find your typical weekday dinner here. Vū is exploratory. It’s different. It’s fun. So the next time you’re in search for "something new," you know where to turn.

See you there soon!

Miss Wilson’s Tips:
- Other great dishes to order: With an array of fresh, vibrantly green veggies, candied bacon and pomegranate
seeds, the Brussels Sprout Salad is a light spring meal, perfect for a cool and refreshing diner. Don’t forget to end the night properly with a dessert. The chocolate ganache and house-spun ice creams are divine, but the Buttermilk Panna Cotta (pictured to the left) is THE BOMB. Literally. With liquid nitrogen Coca-Cola and carbonated blackberries infused with Chambord, it’s like an explosive detonation inside your mouth with each bite.
- When to go and where to sit: Vū’s patio over looks Mother’s Beach, which means there are many cool breezes to catch and relaxing views to enjoy. As we creep into warmer weather, I’d say grab a seat by the fire pit and spend an evening watching the sunset in the marina.

For more information
14160 Palawan Way
Marina del Rey, CA 90292


Friday, May 20, 2011

Where to be Merry: BEAUTY CULTURE exhibit @ Annenberg Space for Photography

The Annenberg Space for Photography caught my eye when it first emerged on the Century City scene a couple of years ago. And while I’ve never featured a destination twice on this guide, after attending the media preview this past Tuesday for the space’s newest exhibit, BEAUTY CULTURE (below I’m pictured with Tyen Ting, one of the exhibit’s photographers who was there), I felt compelled to once again spotlight the space for bringing a new set of conversation-sparking photographs to the Westside.

I’m still struggling to find the right words that convey the raw thoughts and emotions that this exhibit and its accompanying documentary film by Lauren Greenfield stirred within me. Both exhibit and film push the concept of beauty into the spotlight, urging us to sincerely take a few moments to think about the role of physical appearance in our lives. From the multi-billion beauty industry that thrives off of our desires to be attractive (i.e. a product as basic as mascara) to whom we consider to be appealing (is it Naomi Campbell? Angel Lola Love?), the exhibit gives a profound glimpse into our culture’s obsession with glitz, glamour and good looks. And what’s revealed is that the incessant pursuit of beauty is more than a carefree mission; it can be grueling painful and it can turn into a destructive addiction with physical, social and psychological consequences.

What strikes me about the BEAUTY CULTURE exhibit is that it stays with you long after you’ve left it. The images remain embedded in your mind for hours after you’ve stopped looking at them. This exhibit makes you think – or at least it made me consider – what role beauty has had, should have and will have in our lives.

On a surface level, I highly recommend this exhibit as a display of lovely images, pleasing to the visual sensory. But it’s so much more than scores of beautiful women confidently gazing back at you in fierce poses; it’s truly an opportunity to intelligently dissect our personal relationship and bondage to “beauty.”

We all know the saying: a picture is worth a thousand words:

What is the popular cultural perception of feminine beauty?

How many images will you recognize in the exhibit?

What defines your attractiveness?
From hair extensions, make-up, surgeries and toxins, how far will you go to attain physical perfection?

Will you try out the Make Over station? (You should – it’s fun!)
Perhaps I'll bump into you the next time I'm there!

Miss Wilson’s Tips
- The exhibit officially opens tomorrow, Saturday, May 21st
- Parking is validated so don’t forget to ask for a validation on your way out. Otherwise, you could easily shell out $34 for two hours.
- You absolutely must watch the documentary film! Personally, I suggest viewing it before going through the 170+ photographs. It truly sets the tone for the social constructions/messages behind each photo. Or even if you opt to view the photos before the film, I highly recommend revisiting the photos afterwards.
- The space is not open on Mondays or Tuesdays.

For more information:
Annenberg Space for Photography

2000 Avenue of the Stars, #10

Los Angeles, CA 90067


Friday, May 13, 2011

Where to Drink: California Wines @ Corkbar

UPDATE: As of February 2014, Corkbar has closed. 

When it comes to wines, I know all about Trader Joe’s two-buck chuck. I know there are reds and whites, and that pink one called rosé. And thanks to Waka Flocka’s hit song “No Hands,” I now know all about moscato, which can be found in my refrigerator on a regular basis.

Clearly I know as much about wines as Fox News knows about rapper Common’s music career.

And talking with many friends, I noticed that yes, while we enjoy drinking wine, no, our wine knowledge is not that vast, nor do we care to memorize every grape, region and vintage out there. We simply want to sip really good wine while we focus on the important things in life, like debating about which Real Housewives series is the best one out there (for the record, it’s the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills).

I discovered a great wine bar that caters to all levels of wine lovers, whether it’s the skilled connoisseur who can precisely pinpoint the subtleties in each glass, to the novice like me, who just knows what my taste buds like.

Corkbar opened in downtown L.A. two years ago, exclusively showcasing delicious California wines and artisanal quality dishes. With a casually chic décor and hip, urban edge, this corner bar brings the art of wine tasting down to a level that anyone can understand. The staff sociably guides you through the process of selecting a specific wine, and if you’re in the mood to eat, the appetizers and entrées are comfortingly satisfying. Corkbar serves up hundreds of wines, hosts interactive events and offers a super chill California ambiance to pass a pleasant weekend afternoon away.

Last week I met with one of the four owners, Caleb Wines (pictured below), because I wanted to get an idea of what Corkbar had in mind for spring, and to also shed a little light on the world of wines. He provided a lot of great insight, which I think you will find helpful for your next wine experience, whether that’s in your house, at Corkbar or somewhere in the valleys of Napa. Read on!:

On whether or not wine has to be expensive and old in order to be “good”:
“Wine doesn’t have to be more expensive to taste good,” Caleb says. “Wine is more expensive because of how it grows and the areas where it comes from. If they have a small yield, they’re [the vineyards] going to charge more for it. And if they have to keep it caged in barrels for six, nine, twelve, eighteen months, then they’re going to charge you for that. But wines that go right to market and are maybe a little larger yield, they may taste good, but they’re going to be able to pass more of the savings to you. And I think the other thing is that California wines especially, are really not meant to be aged. You’re supposed to consume them within the first five years, for the most part. There are some California wines, especially in the cabernet varietals, that have a lot of tannins that can sit down for five, ten or fifteen years, but by and large, I’d say that about 90% of California wines are made to be consumed within the first two to three years.”

On California’s best year and region for wine:
“It depends on the sub-region, whether it’s central coast, Napa or Sonoma,” Caleb says. “And then it depends on the grape. So like a pinot noir might be really great for 2007, but not so great for 2008. But the opposite might be true for cabernet. When we get a new vintage, we try it, and if we don’t like it, we don’t carry it anymore. So I think that’s one of the things you’ll see – some of our favorite wines kind of fall off every vintage or so. If they come back with a really good one, then we’ll add that back.”

On great wines for the spring and summer:
“We generally try to have a variety year round so that we have almost an equal amount of reds and whites,” Caleb says. “The one thing we’ll do is that when summer comes up, we’ll add a few more rosés. Rosés are just meant for summer: they’re slightly chilled, they have highly concentrated levels of fruit but they’re not sugary and it’s a great wine to sip.”

On Corkbar:
“The best way I’ve been able to describe Corkbar is as a California-focused wine bar,” says Caleb. “And by that I mean we focus on only California wine and farmer’s market fresh food that celebrates what’s grown in the Golden State. 100% of our wines come from California. And the reason why we did that is that a couple of buddies of mine loved going to the wine country and trying all sorts of wine, and I thought, 'boy, I really wish there was a place like this in LA.' The second bright idea was to create one ourselves. We wrote a business plan and put the concept down on paper. It took a while to get off the ground because a lot of real estate owners don’t want to lease a place to people who haven’t done this before – all of our backgrounds were in marketing and other areas, and not in restaurants.”

On why you’ll find foods – not just wines – at Corkbar:
“One thing we wanted as customers was a place to eat some food, because we’ve been to bars where they don’t serve food and it really bums us out," Caleb says. "We want to stick around, but just drinking for three or four hours would tend to lead to a bad morning. So we wanted people to stay and so we said we have to have food. And we didn’t want to just have charcuterie and cheese; we wanted to have foods that people could snack or have a full meal. We always wanted it to be seasonal focused and artisanal quality. And one of the things we mandated was that it has to be fresh. We don’t have a microwave. We don’t have a freezer. We don’t have heat lamps. We don’t even have a deep fryer.”

So the next time you’re in the mood for killer wines in a lighthearted, casual ambiance you know where to turn. Let’s make a toast the next time you’re there. Cheers!

- Many people will head to the large patio with the fire pit and scores of tables and chairs. But there’s also a smaller patio off of 12th Street that’s a great place to people watch.
-Don’t be afraid to venture off onto the unbeaten path with a wine you haven’t tried before! “If you just want to taste a wine – to just sample and you’re not sure if you want to commit, we’ll happily pour you a little taste so that you can try,” Caleb says.

For more information:

403 West 12th Street

Los Angeles, CA 90015



Thursday, May 5, 2011

And Where do You "Where To"?: Dr. Arameh Anvarizadeh and Occupational Therapy

I’m a pretty phenomenal person, if I might say so myself, but I certainly can’t take all of the credit for my fabulosity; many teachers, role models and guardian angels have helped me to reach newer heights each and every day.

One mentor in particular is Dr. Arameh Anvarizadeh (pictured on the right side, along with myself on the left and our friend Abies in the middle, circa 2007), who took me under her wing during my college years and inspired me to become a savvy, “do-it-all-and-still-look-cute-while-doing-it” diva.

Frighteningly charming and wise beyond her years, she has a plethora of accomplishments under her belt, from launching a collegiate community service organization to starting her own business. And this is all while she pursues a career in a field she loves, occupational therapy.

Speaking of occupational therapy, it just so happens to be that April was National Occupational Therapy month. I had to help out Arameh and Shawn Phipps, the president of the Occupational Therapy Association of California (both pictured to the right) by spreading the word about this great profession - even after April.

So read on to learn a little about this interesting field and where all the occupational therapists like to hang in the city. Be sure to check out the video at the end, too!:

Miss Wilson: What is occupational therapy (OT) all about?
Dr. Anvarizadeh: In its simplest terms, occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants help people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations). Common occupational therapy interventions include helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations, helping people recovering from injury to regain skills and providing supports for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes. Some great sites to look at are (state website) and ( national website).

In a nutshell, occupational therapists focus on getting an individual to be as functional and independent in activities that are meaningful to them. Living life to its fullest.

MW: Is OT a recession-proof field?
Dr. Anvarizadeh: Occupational Therapy has been named one of the top recession-proof professions – check out Newsweek. Actually, our schools have become packed for individuals trying to change professions. November, 2010 issue of Money Magazine ranks OT as one of the best jobs in America and Yahoo's Hot Jobs identified occupational therapy as one of five careers with high potential.

MW: Why did you choose to get into OT?
Dr. Anvarizadeh: Initially, I was studying pre-med to attend medical school to become a neurosurgeon. I always have had a passion for neurology. One day, an occupational therapist came to speak to the pre-med bio class. The possibilities she discussed were endless and I began to realize that I wanted to have a more long-term impact of an individual's life. It seemed more meaningful to me.

MW: What's the most rewarding part about this career?
Dr. Anvarizadeh: The inspiration I get from my clients. It is always so amazing to see someone who once was dependent or required assistance become independent again because of the progress they made in rehab.

MW: Where do Occupational Therapists like to hang out and have fun when they're not on their job?
Dr. Anvarizadeh: I love restaurants in Pasadena, Los Feliz, and Silverlake. I am really enjoying the La Grande Orange Cafe in Pasadena. My neighborhood, Studio City, is always amazing. Pitfire in North Hollywood is fun. The Alcove, Aroma Cafe, and Urth Caffe are relaxing places to grab a delicious bite to eat. As far as going out: Downtown is totally revamped and fun to hang. I enjoy lots of places to watch sports like Capitol City and The Game.

For more information, check out the video on Occupational Therapy below!