Monday, March 30, 2015

Happy Anniversary: Five Great Memories for Five Great Years!

As I mentioned in a previous post, #WilsonsGuide is currently celebrating its 5th-year anniversary. Woo-hoo!

In order to commemorate this glorious occasion, I’ve put together a brief list of five notable highlights from my blog, one for each year since I started it, back in March 2010. Check out what they are below!

2010: My first post. Ever.
I launched my blog with a post about one of my favorite L.A. hangouts: Simply Wholesome.
This local eatery represented everything about the type of places that I wanted to feature: a local neighborhood gem, offering great value, having tons of charm, well-known but not pretentious, and overall, being just a fantastic place to stop by. Read this blog post

2011: Interviewing Brian McKnight.
Having a one-on-one interview with Brian McKnight was a huge step for me, because it was my first time securing a major interview with a well-known celebrity, all on my own. To imagine, this multi-platinum, GRAMMY-award nominated singer was candidly talking to me — little old me(!) — on the phone. Amazing! In the years to come, there would be many more interviews with many more phenomenal trailblazers, like DJ Lady Sha, Julie Dexter and saxophonist Mike Phillips, to name a few. Read this blog post 

2012: Bon Voyage! Launching a travel section.
Anyone who knows me knows that I will gladly take a trip to pretty much anywhere at the drop of a hat. So launching a travel section with my post about Mama’s Fish House in Maui enabled me to share my passion and excitement of traveling with even more people. And, I got to share my friends’ travel adventures as well, as they provided guest posts about their excursions in places like Montpellier, France and São Paulo, Brazil. Read this blog post 

2013: Coming back to blogging. After a very long hiatus.
A lot happened in the summer of 2013. I was focused on other endeavors and it was getting tough finding the time to blog. Missing one week of posting turned into missing another and another, and quite frankly, I was enjoying the time that I had usually dedicated to blogging, to exploring other interests. But, my brief hiatus from blogging proved to be fruitful; after three months of not writing, I was refreshed and once again motivated to resume writing. My post about NOLA’s restaurant in downtown L.A. marked my re-entrance into the blogging game. Read this blog post 

2014: New Year, new format!
After a few months adjusting to some new personal and professional responsibilities, I realized that I didn’t have the same amount of time to devote to blogging as I had when I started #WilsonsGuide, four years ago. Since my one post a week wasn’t even that much to begin with, I felt like I either had to continue with this new hectic schedule, devoting all my free time to writing a weekly post and in the process, sacrifice having a social life, or I should stop blogging completely. I didn’t feel ready to give up blogging, so I came to a happy compromise and decided I would change #WilsonsGuide to a bi-weekly format. My post on Papillion, an African-American-owned art gallery in Leimert Park, was the first post after this change. Read this blog post 

And so what’s next?

I’m excited to see what 2015—and future years—will bring. Stay tuned for more new content!

How about you? What were some of your favorite #WilsonsGuide posts? 
Feel free to share in the comments section below and see you at a #WilsonsGuide destination soon!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Happy Anniversary: The #WilsonsGuide Blog Turns Five!

It’s hard to believe, but March marks five years since I’ve launched this #WilsonsGuide blog!

It’s been quite a journey, with more sleepless nights than I care to remember, obsessively roaming through L.A. to find great places to write about, networking like crazy and also, learning a ton of new blogging skills — like writing, editing, photography, social media and graphic design.

And on this adventurous journey, there have been many changes. The #WilsonsGuide blog of today definitely doesn’t look like the #WilsonsGuide blog of the past. Aside from multiple aesthetic and layout changes, there have been editorial changes, like adding a new travel section, and moving from a weekly to a bi-weekly format.

And, I’m not going to lie; at times, it’s been hard to stay committed to blogging.

Responsibilities like a demanding full-time career, and all of the other curveballs that life tends to randomly throw us — deaths, new jobs, maintaining friendships, new relationships, etc., etc. — constantly compete for the resources and time I can give to my blog. At the end of the day, all I can say is that long-term blogging isn’t for the faint or weary.

But something, whether it’s stubbornness, passion or just plain stupidity, propels me not to give up. I have to keep blogging. I have to keep writing. I have to keep sharing about where to eat, drink and be merry in the great city of Los Angeles and beyond…

And so the journey continues. I’m excited about what the future will bring, as I reflect on what the past five years have brought me. As readers, you can expect more great content, more fabulous features and hopefully, even more milestones that I can excitedly share with you.

Here’s to five years down, and to another five years to go. 

Happy 5th birthday, #WilsonsGuide!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Where to Eat: The Grand Opening @ Public School 818

The Eats: American classics, with a creative twist

The Location: Sherman Oaks (The Valley)

The Vibes: Casual, bar scene

Good for: Large groups, dates, alone

The $ Factor: $7-$14 for appetizers; $5-$17 for soups and salads; $13-$25 for entrées and burgers; $10-$13 for pizzas

The Names behind the scenes: Chef Phil Kastel

The 4-1-1: Grill Concepts, the company behind Public School 818, has opened a slew of restaurants, including the L.A. staple, Daily Grill and the Public School restaurant collection: the original Public School 612 in downtown L.A., Public School 310 in Culver City, Public School 805 in Westlake Village and the recently opened Public School 214 in Dallas. Stay tuned for a Public School in Vegas coming soon.

Parking Situation: Valet

I’ll Be Back…: For pretty much everything on the menu!

The Public School restaurant collection is adding to its portfolio!

Taking over the former Sisley restaurant location on the intersection of Sepulveda and Ventura Blvds., Public School 818 opens in Sherman Oaks, as of Monday, March 9.

Like other Public School locations, Public School 818 is a gastropub with a heavy emphasis on beers and savory foods, and a décor that plays up the school theme. There’s varsity jackets lined up at the entrance, a map with local San Fernando Valley high school logos and larger-than-life flash cards posted onto the walls. There’s even a beer bong table, which, you can actually play.

Public School 818 will feature many of the beloved dishes found at other Public Schools — like the Bacon Cheddar Tots — and a menu that changes every three to four months. But, this Sherman Oaks spot will also feature several items exclusive to this location, such as the Lemon Meringue dessert and a killer Shrimp and Grits entrée that was created by one of Public School 818’s chefs.

Here’s a look at a few selections that will be on the inaugural Public School 818 menu, that I tried at a media dinner, held in the week prior to its opening:

For the Table… (appetizers)
The Crispy Buffalo Cauliflower, accompanied by bleu cheese Aioli and Frank's buffalo, is like eating the vegetarian version of buffalo chicken wings. Piping hot cauliflower is wrapped in a very thin fried layer. It’s a completely unusual yet fun way to eat cauliflower!

Served cold, the Crispy Ahi Tuna Tacos include a colorful blend of raw tuna, jimaca avocado salsa, ponzu and lemon aioli, all wrapped in a crispy wonton shell.

Kale, sea salt & vinegar chips, chorizo sausage and mac & cheese may not *sound* like they’d taste good eaten simultaneously, but leave it to Public School to prove that they do. The Chorizo Mac & Cheese was one of my favorite dishes of the night, with a creamy blend of noodles, Swiss Emmental cheese and cooked kale, mixed with wedges of chorizo sausage. It's rich in flavors and so filling. A great appetizer to share (or not to share and keep all to yourself!), or even to have as an entrée.

**Other appetizers on the menu include: Fiery Calamari, Bacon Cheddar Tots and three other options.

Soup & Salads…
The Kale Caesar is a twist on the traditional Caesar salad. There are the typical components — romaine lettuce, croutons, grated Parmesan cheese and creamy Caesar dressing — but there’s also kale, and, a spicy kick: subtle hints of wasabi. Roasted Chicken or Pan Seared Salmon can be added.

**Six salads and one soup on the menu.

Hand Tossed Pizza…
Chef Phil Kastel described the Fig & Prosciutto pizza as a charcuterie board on a pizza. It’s artisanal, with a paper thin crust and ingredients that compliment one another nicely: Gorgonzola and provolone cheeses, thin slices of prosciutto and herbs, which add an earthy taste.

**Other pizzas include the Margherita, Wild Mushroom & Taleggio and the House Pepperoni.

Plates… (entrées)
The Shrimp & White Cheddar Grits came highly recommended by multiple people, so we definitely had to order this. And, we were not disappointed! A thick patty of grits sits underneath bacon and shrimp, served in a cheesy, butter broth. There's also quite a few veggies mixed in: cooked greens, bright red tomatoes and grilled sweet yellow corn.

The Fried Jidori Chicken & Green Chili Cornbread Waffles is another dish that was highly recommended to us. It’s a monstrosity of three fried chicken pieces on top of a thick, fluffy savory waffle. On weekends (or if you just ask on any given day), it comes with a fried egg on top.

**Ten entrées and three burgers available.

The Brown Bag Fries literally come in a brown bag and are the way that fries should be: thin, crispy and perfect for sharing. Nice finishes include the accompanying mustard BBQ sauce and Sriracha ketchup.

The Shaved Brussels & Kale Slaw, is like coleslaw with a slightly spicy kick. It's light and tangy, with bleu cheese crumbles and onions generously mixed in with raw kale and crunchy slices of Brussels sprouts.

**The Grilled Broccolini and Gigante Bean & Greens with shaved Parmesan are two other options as well. 

The Nutella Cookie Sandwich is the king of ice cream sandwiches! Nutella is generously slathered onto two decadently rich chocolate chip cookies, that have vanilla bean ice cream with bacon bits on its perimeter, mashed in between the cookies.

**The Lemon Meringue and a special chef’s selection are two other desserts. 

The original Public School 612 in downtown, which will actually be closing briefly for a new revamp, has always been a great place for me to get together with a large group of friends, kick back some really good food and also chug some beer and craft cocktails. So, I’m excited to see Public Schools continuing to branch out and bring its fantastic experience to other local neighborhoods — like The Valley.

See you at Public School 818 soon!

For more information: