Sunday, August 19, 2012

Where to Eat: Weekend Brunches @ Sunny Spot

The Eats: American brunch classics with a Island/Jamaican/Korean/Mexican twist

The Vibes: Breezy and full of fresh air; tropical, colorful and sunny

When-to-Go: Weekend Brunch, 11am-3pm

With-Whom-to-Go: Family-, friend- and kid-friendly

The $ Factor: $$: Dishes are in the $8-$15 range and beverages are $3-$12

The 4-1-1: Launched in November 2011, Sunny Spot is another fun creation from chef Roy Choi, infamous for launching the Kogi Truck and another #WilsonsGuide favorite, A-Frame.

I’ll Be Back…: For more of the Festival Bread! And the French Toast! And the ribbbbs!

Usually when I'm drafting a blog post, I'll have a ton of ideas about what to write.

But with Sunny Spot

Not this time around. 

I took one look at all of the photos* that I've accumulated from here over the months, and I immediately knew that this post needed to be more photos, less words. So, save for a few introductory paragraphs and descriptive explanations here and there, I've strove to capture the essence of what this fabulous weekend brunch is all about through images.

I hope you enjoy, and I'll see you there soon!

The ambiance is mad chill in both the main dining area and the enclosed patio. 
Lots of trees, breezes and sunlight.

The patio:

The main dining area:

Each dish truly has its own little unique personality, 
with its own style, flavor and unique presentation

The Savory Festival Bread is similar to beignets and comes with three dipping sauces: rum honey, guava jam and goat’s milk butter. I prefer the guava jam, but a few of my friends have raved about the goat’s milk butter. They’re great to start out with, as they’re easy to share.

The “What a Jerk” Wings are “double coated and double fried.” They’re dry, not dripping with sauce, although there's a spicy sauce underneath them (use with caution; it has a kick, and I’m saying that, even though I tend to handle “spice” fairly well). Another shareable item.

The Johnny Cakes are like what would happen if pancakes and cornmeal had a baby together. Although accompanied with maple syrup, it’s definitely more savory than sweet.

The Banana French Toast is my absolute favorite! It has so many different elements merging – the coconut, the banana, the thick, thick, thick moist bread – but nothing ever overpowers one another. Instead, they compliment one another very nicely. No sharing on this one!

The Two Fisted Cheeseburger looked absolutely amazing. But, I don’t eat beef, so I didn’t have even one bite. However, photographer Tulani said it was her favorite off the menu, literally inhaling the entire thing (OK, she shared with friends, too). As you can see from below, there’s a lot going on, from cheese to tomato jam, arugula and more…

The Jamaican Oxtail Stew was yet another dish I had to pass on and again, Tulani made sure to let me know how it tasted. She said it was "delicious" and quite filling. So, order that (and don’t share) if you’re famished. She also suggests ordering a side of the Yellow Salty Rice and mixing it into the stew, squeezing a little lime juice to everything.

The Brown Sugar Scotch Bonnet Short Ribs were on the brunch menu months ago, but not recently. Anyway, get them if you can during brunch, and if you can’t, then come back in the evening to get them. They’re my second favorite item, all smoky and falling right off the bone. They come with a tangy BBQ sauce that I recommend lathering on.

The drinks are quite diverse as well.
They have their own distinctive glassware, with their own individual garnishes, sporting their own special styles. Haven’t tried them all yet, but I’m working on it:

The Bridgetown Swizzle is a great summer refresher. It’s on the sweet side, and is based with pot still rum. Love the colors!

The Death in the D.R. is another sweet, rum-based cocktail with splashes of absinthe and champagne, topped with lime and honey.

The Dry Harbour isn't on the brunch menu, but it's still worth ordering. Like the Death in the D.R., it has rum, absinthe and lime...but it has a completely different feel and taste. All I can say is, try both!

The Piña Colada has an exceptional taste to it. Made with rum, pineapple and ginger coconut sorbet, it’s frothy and fruity and fizzles slightly. Only thing is, you’re pretty much done after about four or five sips (well, maybe after like 9 sips). 

For those who refrain from libations, Sunny Spot offers exceptional alternatives, like the Kind of Blue Smoothie pictured below. It’s a medley of blueberries, strawberries, oranges, bananas, crème fraiche…and even a bit of basil. I had a few sips of Tulani’s and found it to be thick, filled with big chunks of fresh fruit throughout.

That's it - see you there soon!

For more information:
, Facebook, @SunnySpotVenice

*First photo taken by Photographer Tulani Watkins; all others taken by yours truly

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Where to Drink: Subzero Martinis @ Zinc Lounge, Shade Hotel

The Drinks: Frosty, alcoholic treats served in cone-shaped glasses made of ice

The Vibes: Relaxed and casual, with a tendency to get more glamorous as the night progresses

Good for: When you’re in the mood for a bona fide lounging experience

With-Whom-to-Go: A friend or a date or a group of friends…even alone...

The $ Factor: $$: Reasonably priced, especially for Manhattan Beach and for being an upscale boutique hotel; the subzero martini is $12 and the food (which BTW, is great for sharing) stays in the $15 range

The 4-1-1: It's literally only a couple of blocks away from the Manhattan Beach Pier and shoreline. It’s a good destination for unwinding after a day at the beach on the weekends

I’ll Be Back…: To try the other martinis, because quite honestly, I tend to get distracted pretty easily and go for what I already know is a winner: the subzero martini!

I had very high expectations for my summer.

I expected to work on my tan lines at pool parties. I expected to gain 100 pounds from all of the smoky BBQ I’d stuffed my face with. Why, I thought that every single weekend I’d coast down PCH, top down, shades up…

And yet, somehow, the majority of my summer has come and gone, and I’ve been stuck in climate-controlled, windowless buildings the whole entire time.

Am I the only one out here suffering from this nonsense?!

Determined to at least pretend like I’ve had an exciting time frolicking in all this sunshine, one recent Saturday, I decided to head to the one place that I knew would put the spirit of summer in me: Zinc Lounge at Shade Hotel in Manhattan Beach.

I was first introduced to this boutique hotel about three years when I had an assignment to cover the hotel as nightlife editor for a local magazine. My experience here had resonated with me all these years because it was such a cute little hidden gem, with an airy outdoor patio, an amazing décor and simplistic, but delicious food. As it had been a while that I had come last, I was quite delighted to see that it was still thriving and doing well (you know how it is in this city; a restaurant’s here one day, and gone the next). And, I was even more delighted to see that the menu had many of the same items that I had fallen in love with before, such as the Belgium Style Hand Cut Fries, pictured below.

But I’m not even going to lie – I was mostly thrilled to see that Zinc continued to serve what made me remember it so fondly: the subzero martini.

The flavors may have changed, but the concept has remained the same. In a nutshell, it’s a cocktail that’s served in a cone-shaped ice glass, and it’s just really, really fun to drink. It’s all of these amazing factors merging together: the burst of coldness surprising your lips as you take sips, the chilliness of the alcohol itself, the fun little shape. So when you’re hot from baking in 110-degree weather - or wishing that you were - ordering one is a great way to “cool down.”

There are three current subzero martinis: the passionate kiss, which quite frankly, reminded me of a cosmo, although it’s really made of pomegranate and pama liqueuer...

The coconut h20, which is very light in taste and includes orange vodka, coconut water and elderflower…

And the honey money, which hands down, is my favorite. It’s sweet, but not too sugary, and I’m loving the muddled strawberries – they give it an extra flair.

So the next time you find yourself in a dire situation like I was, stuck in the where-in-the-world-did-my-summer-go?! pits, I highly recommend heading to Zinc Lounge. Chillax, pull up a chair and of course, order a subzero martini.

See you there soon!

For more information:

Sunday, August 5, 2012

And Where Do You “Where To?”: Guest Writer Brook Turner, Creator of “Thankful For a Million”

I’m not quite sure how or when I first connected with writer Brook Turner.

Perhaps it was when she asked to interview me for her site, Thankful for a Million…or after I asked her to do a guest post for #WilsonsGuide or that one time we planned to meet up for dinner…but before we both started writing with Made Woman magazine…and before it turned out she knows some of my friends…and how could I forget to mention – maybe it was all because we’re part of a fantastic e-networking group, We Are the Industry…

Regardless of precisely when we officially met, I’m elated that we did meet! You see, Brook runs a website called Thankful for a Million – a “purely positive space” where she shares her own inspirational stories and other movers-and-shakers’ journeys to success. As a pretty ambitious young lady myself, I’ve found her site to be a godsend that I’ve relied on when I’ve needed just a tad bit of encouragement to keep pushing forward to focusing on my dreams.

While she mostly covers people and not places on her site, I’m excited – – and thankful – – that she was willing to share where she “where to’s” is thankful for around the city. I’m going to have to check them all out soon, before the summer is over.

So read on, and then make sure you stop by Thankful for a Million after. See you at one of these places soon!

By Brook Turner:

The City of Angeles is full of people getting their hustle on. But even with all the hustle and bustle, it’s important to maintain a sense of balance. So, in the spirit of Wilson’s ‘Where To’s,’ I’ve compiled a list of three locations, across the LA area, which inspire calm, health & fitness, and creativity.
We can’t forget to rejuvenate ourselves every once in a while.

Calm: The Korean Friendship Bell
Sometimes, you just need to chill out. Simply commuting in LA traffic can get anyone wound up. The Korean Friendship Bell provides just the environment to inspire calm. Located in Angels Gate Park, the bell was cast in Korea and shipped to the United States, as a symbol of friendship between the two countries, in 1976. Its ornate designs are a sight to behold. On top of the Bell’s beauty and history, it overlooks the Catalina Channel. The sun, waves, and ocean breeze will immediately calm you down. Royal Palms State Beach is less than two miles away. On a good day, you can spot dolphins.

For more information:
The Korean Friendship Bell
3601 S Gaffey St
Angels Gate Park
San Pedro, CA 90731

Health & Fitness: The Santa Monica Stairs
You know that feeling. You need to work out, but it’s just not easy to get your butt in gear. Well, it may be time to hit the stairs. Whatever your aversion (or excuse) for not working out: you’ve had a long work day; you’ve just left the salon; or you’re afraid you’ll pass out from exhaustion, the vibe at the Santa Monica Stairs is just enough to get you going. At any given moment, you’ll spot personal trainers, professional athletes or fitness lovers of all ages getting their workouts in. Everyone’s really welcoming and willing to provide advice for a regimen. And, even if you’d like to be left alone while you work out, that fit 80 year-old running up and down the stairs will provide motivation.

For more information:
The Santa Monica Stairs
4th St & Adelaide Dr
Santa Monica, CA 90402
Neighborhood: Santa Monica

Creativity: Downtown LA Galleries
I know what you’re thinking: “Art Walk only happens once a month.” Well, you’re right. However, a number of these galleries hold regular hours and will open up if you make an appointment. My favorites include: drkrm and Robert Reynolds Gallery. drkrm has more traditional prints and Robert Reynolds Gallery has a number of installations. The work displayed in both is bound to get your creative juices flowing.

For more information:

A native of Ohio, I’m thankful to live in a city where the ocean and mountain tops are only separated by a few miles, it’s almost always warm enough to venture outside, and where people of all creative disciplines come to live, work and learn. Enjoy the city and get inspired!

For more information:, Facebook, @Thankful_Fam