Friday, January 27, 2012

Where to Drink: Tea to Go @ Teavana

The Drinks: Herbal/white/green/oolong/black and rooibos teas, cold and hot

The Vibes: Casual and quick

Good for: When you need a naturally refreshing energy booster

The $ Factor: Not too Bad ($2.99, $3.99, $4.99 per cup); Pricing is broken down into three distinct tiers, depending on the type of teas you order

The 4-1-1: Teavana is a specialty tea store that mainly sells loose-leaf teas and tea accessories (teapots, tea canisters, tea mugs, etc.). Looking around the store, it's easy to assume that’s all they have, but there's also a tiny tea bar, where you can order fresh cups of tea to-go. That's where the magic is.

I’ll Be Back…: Forget get coffee breaks; I’ll be back for my afternoon “tea” breaks

They got me with the samples. 

I was minding my own business, doing some unnecessary shopping at Westfield Century City when I heard:

“Would you like to try our teas?”

My head immediately jerked to the left, where the sound had originated.

A twenty-something young man with flawless skin was smiling at me. With a dignified grace, he effortlessly balanced a tray of tea samples in his hands.

“Come in. Try some of our teas,” he beamed.

I looked around reluctantly. I was on my lunch break and needed to head back to the office…but…since I’m never one to turn down tea, I took him up on his offer and ventured into Teavana.

Now let me just interject and say this: I’m a die-hard tea fan. I drink gallons of it by the hour. Yet the thing is, most of the time, my cups of tea aren’t that memorable: hot water, a sprinkle of leaves and herbs, perhaps a squirt of honey, if I’m feeling adventurous that day.

But standing in Teavana, sipping the samples of Youthberry White tea and then the White Ayurvedic Chai, and then the Peach Momotaro, and then the Monkey Picked Oolong, I realized that there was something special about these Teavana teas. After each sip, I felt as if my mouth had just lit up with a burst of intense aromas. The flavors from the tea sort of sit and settle into your mouth before the tea goes down smoothly like golden liquid. I guess it should, since Teavana exclusively sells the top 5% loose-leaf teas of the world.

My Teavana tea expert slowly walked me around the store, energetically showing me products, pushing more and more samples towards me, excitedly explaining the health benefits of the different teas I savored. He then proceeded to show me the good stuff: the tea leaves.

The strawberry, blueberry and raspberry mate teas, pictured below, smelled as divinely as they looked. So when you order your tea, make sure to get a few whiffs of the different tea leaves that will be used.

Of course there’s a catch to tea that tastes, smells and looks so divine; it’s expensive. A 16-ounce canister of loose-leaf tea can easily cost up to $100, especially when you start talking about the specialty teas. I suppose depending on how you look at it, maybe the price isn't too bad, considering a 16-ounce canister roughly yields 100 cups of tea. 

But most of the time, while it can be hard to walk away without buying a canister or two, I manage to settle on a cup of tea for the afternoon. I always find myself coming back because I appreciate how friendly and chill the Teavana staff is. They’re totally fine if you take a billion samples, and they’re always quick to share the various benefits of all of the teas.

I highly recommend stopping by Teavana the next time you’re in need of a quick energy booster that’s extremely beneficial for your health. It’s perfect on the go, or to savor back at the office or on the road. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, though: Teavana can get really addicting. At one point, I was stopping by and drinking a cup a day for months.

Nonetheless, go check it out. Perhaps I’ll see you there soon!

P.S. – If you like your tea on the sweeter side, request to have the special German rock sugar added to your concoction. Made from beet roots, it’s all natural and unprocessed, allegedly making it a healthier alternative to regular white granulated sugar. Before it’s added to your tea, it looks like large crystallized rocks; in your tea, it’s a syrupy consistency that’s not overpowering in taste. Delish!

For more information: Teavana, @Teavana

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Where to Eat: Mongolian BBQ at Gobi Mongolian BBQ

The Eats: Super healthy Mongolian BBQ              

Good for: Those moments when you want to stuff your face like a maniac and still know that what you just inhaled is good great for your body

The Vibes: Casual, chill, comfortable, quick

When to Go: Weekday Happy Hour, 5-7pm/
Wednesday & Saturday All-You-Can-Eat/
Thursday All-Day-Happy-Hour

Who to Bring: Casual dates, friends, the fam, kiddies who tend to scarf down ten plates worth of food since they’re growing and whatever

The $ Factor: Affordable ($10-$20), with a lot of discounts thrown in throughout the week

The 4-1-1: Jasmine rice, brown rice and tiger shrimp aren’t at the Mongolian BBQ station, but you can order them from your server

I’ll Be Back…: To try the draft beer floats. And for another Ginger Blossom cocktail. And of course for the food!

I’m not a Mongolian BBQ expert. My experiences have been limited to chain restaurants in mall food courts that dish out greasy, high-cholesterol meals. So when I was invited to check out Gobi Mongolian BBQ & Beer House, I felt somewhat of an obligation to the originators and true lovers of Mongolian BBQ to go. I couldn’t continue to bask in my dark ignorance of what this cuisine could potentially be. It would be like someone who’s only eaten at Panda Express swearing they hate all Chinese food. You gotta go for the real deal, right?

I found Gobi on Sunset Blvd. in a rather adorable establishment in Silver Lake. The slightly small,
one-room dining area had a minimalist yet cozy feel to it. Nondescript wooden tables and chairs towards the right and down the middle. Mongolian BBQ set-up to the left.

The food was similar to the setting: simply displayed and straight-to-the-point. The meats (pork, lamb, chicken, beef and tiger shrimp) are natural and antibiotic-free. The vast selection of veggies (broccoli, spinach, carrots and sooo much more) come directly from a local Farmer’s Market. There are even plenty of vegetarian and vegan options, and the sauces are all made in-house. During a brief stop at our table, co-owner Michael Buch explained his obsession with organic ingredients. He said that eating at tons of cheap Mongolian BBQ places as a kid growing up in LA, he loved the cuisine so much, but he wanted to open a Mongolian BBQ spot that was tasty and healthy.

So here’s how it works: Go to the Mongolian BBQ station and grab a bowl (or 2 or 3 or 4). Pick out the ingredients and sauces that you want mixed together. As tempting as it is to mix 15 items together, sometimes simplicity is better. I was politely informed that picking only 3-5 veggies and meats can go a long way. But, of course, it’s your personal preference. Here was my selection on one trip: veggies, noodles and tiger shrimp.

I handed my bowls over to one of the chefs who cooked it right in front of me. 

After about 5-8 minutes, voila, my Mongolian BBQ bowl was ready. 

The verdict? I loved how fresh everything tasted, and how many different sauces and flavors there are to try. The pressure to sample everything can be a little overwhelming, especially if you go on an All-You-Can-Eat-Night, but with the right amount of pacing and opting for small portion sizes, I'm convinced it can be done.

I also want to mention that there are other options, aside from the Mongolian BBQ. Not a lot, but a few, including appetizers like the Pan Seared Sesame-Crusted Ahi Tuna pictured below...

...and desserts like the Homemade Mini Ice Cream Sandwich Cookies with vanilla and espresso gelato smashed between two crunchy cookies (divine!). 

No hard liquors, but plenty of sake, soju-based cocktails, wines and beers (bottled and tap) 
as you can see from the picture below. 

So the next time you’re in the mood for some quick, filling, healthy and affordable Mongolian BBQ, 
I say check out Gobi. See you there soon! 

For more information:, @GobiSilverLake

Saturday, January 14, 2012

And Where Do You “Where To?”: FREE Giveaway/Contest Winner

Wow. All I can say is WOW. 

I received so many great, unique, creative entries for this past giveaway/contest that it was way too hard to decide – I wanted to pick everyone! Since I couldn’t do that, I did eventually pick a winner:


“San Miguel. The most distant, uninhabited Channel Island. Peace and quiet. Solitude. 30,000 seals and sea lions. Trusting island foxes that approach you like dogs. Crashing surf. A boat trip past 1000's of dolphins. This is where I want to go and be. To remember life in its raw natural state. To clear my mind of all the business of life and remember ME in my raw natural state. To get in touch with who we are, who we want to be and what our dreams should truly give us!” 

This sounds like an absolute paradise. Landing on the island by skiff...only 30 visitors permitted each day... I’ve already packed my tent and picked up my camera. We’re going next weekend, right?

Daniel wins two tickets to see Cirque du Soleil's IRIS in Hollywood. A big thanks for everyone who sent in an entry – they were awesome to read. I haven't been to any of these places yet,  so I excitedly added them to my own personal “List of Places to Visit in 2012.” I hope that you do get to venture off to your picks this year, and in fact, I hope that we all get to those “destinations” that we’re dreaming of in 2012 – whether that’s a new restaurant, a new vacay spot or new phase/transition in life.

Check out the other entries below and look out for another contest/giveaway soon – sooner than you might think!

Miss Wilson

Xenia of Los Angeles: “I'm absolutely determined to visit the Hollywood Forever Cemetery this year during the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival. Though the cemetery is mostly known as a great summer hang-out for its movie screenings, I've heard that it turns into the most incredible array of sights and sounds during this festival. The skeleton costumes are elaborate and outrageous, the tamales and pan de muerto are scrumptious and authentic, and the music and dance performances amongst the tombstones are mesmerizing. And what's more, I love the meaning behind it--it's to celebrate the lives of loved ones who have passed on. What could be a better setting? Of course I've only heard about it, and have yet to go. 2012 is my year!” I'll be there right with you in the fall!

@_jennalee: “Plan on spending most of my time at the new bottle shop & tasting room in Redondo Beach @selectbeerstore” Beer tasting!!!

@StockMyGalley: “I plan on hanging out more in Downtown Los Angeles! Everyday there is a new rest/bar/lounge opening! Fav spot: @VillainsTavern”  I agree - I spend way too much time down there - there's just so many great spots. 

Warren: “Entering 2012, I was determined not to make any loosely based resolutions. Losing the same 10 pounds from Thanksgiving and Christmas, or even the same 'Out with the old, In with the NEW' mentality with friends, habits, and decisions. However, since moving to this beautiful city known as Los Angeles, Ca almost a year ago, there is one place that I am certain I have to go before this year is over......and that Angel's Crest. So what is Angel's Crest? Well, Angel's Crest is supposedly this hidden place in Malibu, CA, that has an awesome hiking trail, an a great way to be intertwined with nature and away from the busyness of LA, and it has a waterfall that simply fills up your soul. I have heard sooo many great things about this place and I am destined to go there. It even made me look back on where I have gone in comparison to this, like Runyon Canyon, Griffith Park, and other hiking parks in the city....but for some odd reason, every time I hear the place 'Angel's Crest', I am assured that I will be amazed by its beauty. :-)” If you ever find this place, let me know!

@ernestalfonso: “@WilsonsGuide @Cirque RUSH! =P…. rush rush rush rush!!!!!!!!” See you there in a few weeks :)

Renita: “I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to go to LAKE SHRINE. I have heard it is one of the most peaceful places to go to in LA and it feels like your at Fantasy Island. My friends also say you can mediate there and the ground keepers are also so nice and pleasant. With my crazy schedule I would love some peace and” This sounds beautiful, serene and uplifting. 

Nicole of Los Angeles: “I would LOVE to go to the Magic Castle! Part of the mystery is figuring out how to get in. Not only does the venue have breathtaking views of Hollywood, it also hosts a vibe of a bygone era. Who wouldn't want the chance to rediscover the joys of childhood through magic?” When you figure out how to get in, you gotta let me know!

@JusBeinEJ: “@WilsonsGuide @cirque ST. Thomas Baby!!!!”  Heeeey - a vacay!

@_Amandalee: “I'd like to hang at Friday nights off the 405 at the Getty! Always great bands and sounds fun! Never been but it's a just for 2012!” I went a few summers ago - it's a blast!  

Thursday, January 5, 2012

And Where Do You “Where To?”: FREE Giveaway/Contest #4

Giveaway #4: 
Contest Running Friday 1/6/2012-Friday1/13/2012 

It’s only right to start the New Year off properly…with another giveaway/contest/drawing/competition! 

Last year it was all about restaurant gift certificates, but this time, it’s about seeing one of the hottest shows around town, Cirque du Soleil’s “IRIS” at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

That's why I’m giving away two tickets to see a show to whoever can answer the following question in the most creative way:

We all have our New Year resolutions to lose weight, eat healthy foods, spend more time with family, etc... but where is a hang out destination that you are absolutely determined to visit in 2012? Perhaps it’s your favorite neighborhood bakery you haven’t been to in a while, or it's a completely new restaurant or lounge. Whatever it is – museum, spa, club, etc. – I want to know why you want to visit! Be as descriptive as you’d like, and photos, although optional, are always welcomed. 

The person with the BEST 2012 destination (picked by yours truly) wins!

Don’t forget to include your first name and your location. All answers can be submitted in the comment box below, sent to or tweeted to @WilsonsGuide on Twitter.

Contest starts today and goes until next Friday, January 13th, 11:59pm PST. Winner will be announced on Wilson’s Guide on Saturday, January 14th.

A big THANKS to Cirque du Soleil for donating the tickets! I saw “IRIS” and almost fell out of my seat from all of the thrilling excitement going on throughout the night. To learn more about why this show is definitely a “Wilson’s Guide” pick, read my write-up on it by clicking here.

Good luck! 


· This giveaway/contest/drawing/competition is free and open to anyone over 18 years of age.

· Please note: all entries received may be potentially retweeted and/or posted on at a later date without further compensation. If an entry is posted and/or retweeted, only the entrant’s first name or Twitter username will be posted in conjunction with the entry.

· Ticket voucher is valid for regular performances on Tuesday-Thursday and expires December 31, 2012. Excludes holiday performances. Reservations must be made 15 days in advance and are final. Please note show schedule subject to change without notice. No substitutions, cash equivalents, or transfers for any part is permitted. Not for resale. Cirque du Soleil and/or the Kodak Theatre is not responsible for replacing lost or stolen tickets and/or vouchers.

· Winner will be given specific instructions on receiving the gift certificate via Twitter and/or email, depending on how the winner submitted his/her entry.

· By accepting the ticket voucher, winner releases Cirque du Soleil, Wilson’s “Where To” Guide and Miss Wilson and all of their respective officers, agents and employees from any responsibility or liability in connection with the awarded ticket voucher. Winner also agrees to release Cirque du Soleil, Wilson’s “Where To” Guide and Miss Wilson of any injuries, losses, or damages of any kind resulting from acceptance, use, misuse, possession, or loss of the “IRIS” ticket voucher.

· By entering this giveaway, entrants accept and agree to these rules.