Monday, January 29, 2018

Where to be Merry: Game of Thrones “The Spoils of War” Screening @ The Regal LA LIVE Stadium, Downtown Los Angeles

To celebrate the recent release of Game of Thrones: The Complete Seventh Season on Blu-ray™ and DVD, HBO Home Entertainment hosted a special event at downtown L.A.’s Regal LA LIVE Stadium 14, Friday, Jan. 19 and Saturday, Jan. 20. 

HBO held four separate screenings — two on Friday night and two on Saturday night — of Season 7’s “Spoils of War” episode, along with other bonus content found on the Blu-ray™ and DVD sets. 

Before and after the screening, guests could get up and personal with a few GOT props. In a gallery featuring the "fallen conquerors of Westeros," there were regal framed photos of some of the infamous GOT royalty — including the good (Jon Snow), the beautiful (Margaery Tyrell) and the ones we love to hate (ugh, Joffrey Baratheon). Each photo was inscribed with a quote from its respective king or queen, providing insight into his or her thoughts on ruling. 

A detailed Dragonstone map was prominently displayed nearby as well, denoting significant places like King’s Landing and putting all of the locations in the series in relation to one another.

Guests could even sit and take pictures in massive replications of the Iron Throne and Dragonstone Throne. As you can see from the photo below, I got pretty comfortable in the royal seat. I think being a queen just might serve me well! 

The night I attended, Matt Shakman, who directed the "The Spoils of War" episode, kicked off the screening with a brief introduction. Random cool facts about this guy: he’s a former child star (The Facts of Life, Diff'rent Strokes and Webster, to name a few), and, he’s directed two GOT episodes (also "Eastwatch") plus dozens of other television show episodes, including It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. As if that’s not enough for accomplishments, he’s also now the artistic director for UCLA’s Geffen Playhouse.

After Shakman's intro, a very brief clip took us "Inside the Art Department" to see how the Dragonstone Throne and other sets were created, and explained that for "The Spoils of War" episode, the crew reached a new record for setting the most people on fire — 20 — in a single shot.

Next up was "Conquest and Rebellion," a 45-minute animation that explains just how Westeros came to be through the aggressive, and quite violent, conquest by King Aegon I Targaryen. It’s available on the Season 7 Blu-ray™ and DVD set, or, you can watch it here.

Rounding out the night was the fourth episode in season 7, "The Spoils of War" episode, which is the third most viewed episode in the series to-date. Main highlights include Jon Snow finding cave drawings at Dragonstone indicating that the Children of the Forest and First Men previously united to fight against the White Walkers; Arya returning to Winterfell, connecting once again with her siblings Sansa and Bran; and an epic battle scene taking place when Daenerys Targaryen and her Dothraki army pay a surprise visit to Jaime Lannister’s army, bringing nothing but death, destruction and an angry, fire-breathing dragon that literally destroys everything in its path.

And even though I had previously viewed "The Spoils of War" in the comforts of my own home, watching it once again — this time on a colossal screen and with surround sound that made you feel vibrations for each and every loud "boom" or "thud"— really was incredible. I wish I could watch all of the series in a theater; it truly augments the story in such a magical, larger-than-life way.

Getting a chance to revisit the GOT series by attending this screening and interacting with some of the props made me remember just how much I enjoy this show and I seriously cannot wait until Season 8 debuts, in 2019 (must we wait an entire year???)!

Are you a Game of Thrones fan, and if so, what’s your favorite season and/or episode?

I’ll see you at another screening sometime soon!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Where to Eat: 10 Must-Visit dineLA Restaurant Week restaurants, Los Angeles

dineL.A. Restaurant Week has officially taken over the city! 

During this two-week period from now until next Friday, Jan. 26, hundreds upon hundreds of places — whether big or small, high-end or extremely affordable — will offer up special two- to three-course prix fixe lunches (starting at $15) and/or dinners (starting at $29).

Participating places are literally all throughout the greater Los Angeles area, with some choosing to show off brand new options and yet others deciding to stick to their signature, best-selling dishes.

The entire list of 300+ restaurants can be rather overwhelming to skim, so I've taken the liberty to craft The #WilsonsGuide to dineL.A. — a curated compilation of 10 dining establishments that I've personally tested out and enjoyed throughout the years, and truly think are worth your time, too.

So please, read the list below and don’t forget to share any dineL.A. restaurants you plan to frequent in the comments section below!

In alphabetical order:

A-Frame | Culver City

Housed in a former IHOP, A-Frame kept the space and even the signature slanted IHOP roof the same and transformed the interior into an organic, earthy space with modern fixtures. Food here is a fusion of Asian and American cultures, with names that are as fun as the ingredients in the dishes they describe. dineL.A. menu recommendation: The Cracklin Beer Can Chicken, which has been on the menu since A-Frame initially opened in 2010.

For more info | dineL.A. $29 dinner menu 

Emporium Thai Cuisine | Westwood

Emporium’s proud claim is that it's been the only place in the Westwood area serving traditional and street Southern Thai food, since opening its doors in 2000. The one-room eatery has a warm, inviting atmosphere filled with earthy, muted colors and an array of eye-catching artwork, including a creative display of partitions from Cost Plus World Market along with a Buddha statue that owner John Sungkamee acquired during his time residing in a temple as a monk. dineL.A. menu recommendation: The Pad Prik King Crispy Pork, comprising crispy pork belly and pork rind, all stir fried in a dry red curry with vegetables carrots, green beans and red chili.

For more info | dineL.A. lunch & dinner menus 

Hanjip Korean BBQ | Culver City

Located right off of the main Culver Blvd. thoroughfare in downtown Culver City, Hanjip is my go-to destination when I’m craving all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ on the Westside. It has a wide selection of 20 well-seasoned meats and seafood that you cook on a grill right at your table. dineL.A. menu recommendation: The beef bulgogi is fantastic; it’s tender and lathered in a flavorful marinade.

For more info | dineL.A. lunch & dinner menus 

One Pico @ Shutters on the Beach | Santa Monica

One Pico is a restaurant located within a subtly high-end hotel, Shutters on the Beach, which sits on prime real estate in Santa Monica, slightly south of the pier. The restaurant has wall-to-wall windows that offer a view of the Pacific Ocean that would take anyone’s breath away and features a seasonal market menu. dineL.A. menu recommendation: Go for the Jidori Farm Chicken, pictured above.

For more info | dineL.A. lunch & dinner menus

Rose Cafe & Restaurant | Venice

Separated into several sections — a restaurant with two patios, a deli / coffee stand and a bar area — Rose Cafe boasts a vibrant space that’s absolutely enchanting. Coffee here is bold and delicious, always served with a nice presentation. On any given day, stop by for a quick bite to eat or stay for a longer meal. A few dineL.A. menu options: short rib, salmon and Carolina gold rice.

For more info | dineL.A. lunch & dinner menus 

The District by Hannah An | Beverly Hills

This swanky restaurant on Third Street near the Beverly Center was launched by Hannah An, who hails from the same matriarchal family of restaurateurs who opened nearby Crustacean and who currently run a multi-million dollar restaurant business. Hannah has created a dining experience that highlights the varied intricacies of Vietnamese cuisine while simultaneously adding a California flair. dineL.A. menu recommendation: Hannah’s Noodles, pictured above, are everything.

For more info | dineL.A. lunch & dinner menus

The Federal | The Valley (North Hollywood)

The Federal Bar often features live performances in its upstairs space, but also has an intriguing menu in its downstairs gastropub. Here you'll find twists on American fare standards, like the Crispy Chicken & Biscuit Sliders, a Buffalo Chicken pizza and the oh-so-tasty Vegan Weena, pictured above. Some of the dineL.A. menu options: the MCOA Burger, the Smoked Brisket Sammie and a Vegan Burger.

For more info | dineL.A. lunch & dinner menus 

The Raymond 1866 | Pasadena

Set amongst the sleepy foothills of South Pasadena, The Raymond 1886 occupies the former caretaker’s cottage of the old Raymond Hotel, originally opened in 1886 and once the popular hangout destination for elite celebrities like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. I’ve typically ventured here for the libations from Bar 1886, but often observe the restaurant packed as well. dineL.A. options include the Roasted Hanger Steak, Columbia River Salmon, Short Rib, Hawaiian Pacific Swordfish and 10 signature lunch sandwiches. 

For more info | dineL.A. lunch & dinner menus 

Tortilla Republic | West Hollywood

Tortilla Republic has the perfect balance of hospitable customer service, stellar Mexican food, a refined but welcoming ambiance and delicious margaritas. The tastes, the seasonings, the presentation…this isn’t greasy Mexican food that will leave you in a food coma; it’s as fresh as it is vibrantly colorful and beautiful to look at. dineL.A. selections include Seared Albacore Tuna Tostaditas and Crispy Tofu Tlacoyos.

For more info | dineL.A. lunch & dinner menus

Viviane | Beverly Hills

Way, way back in the day, the Avalon Hotel, where Viviane is located, was the stomping grounds for megastars including Mae West, Lucille Ball and Marilyn Monroe. Now, this unassumingly glitzy boutique hotel offers both old Hollywood charm and subdued relaxation, all in a California chic, mid-century modern setting. Viviane artfully combines American, European and California influences with lots of colorful, vibrant produce, like avocados and kale. dineL.A. menu recommendation: the Pan Seared Salmon.

For more info | dineL.A. lunch & dinner menus


For a full list of all 300+ participating restaurants, visit here!