The Best Thing About L.A.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: the best thing about L.A. is getting out of L.A. For all the thrills Hollywood has to offer, the nonstop action can be exhausting. Catching up on some r & r in wine country is perfect - you're just outside of San Francisco, so you can avoid the darts of intense hatred from the locals. What's more, is that the bucolic beauty of Sonoma rivals Provence, with gourmet restaurants, vineyards, goats and sheep grazing to replace lawn mowers and quaint villages. While France will always be cooler, people in the South of France tend to be annoyed by the city slickin' Parisians that come through. In that way, us Angelenos are lucky. No locals were abusive towards us, or acted like we had skulls stuffed with sawdust based on our home zip code.

Here are some Sonoma recommendations, based on personal experience:

Rent a convertible!

Cruise the rolling countryside.

Eat impeccable French cuisine at at Cafe Charcuterie.

Spend time outdoors.

Be surprised by what you notice when your mind is quiet.

Avoid the turkey vultures!

And of course, drink the wine.


Mug shots - the new head shot?

Me - posing like an heiress!
A few years ago, it seemed there was a bonafide celeb D.U.I. phase in Los Angeles. Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie all seemed busted around the same time as Mel Gibson, Mickey Rourke, and others. The first thing to splash across the tabloids is of course the mug shot.

Now the celeb mug shot has become so standard, that it's no longer taboo. In fact it's almost glamorous, as if the slammer is one of the inconvenient little perils of fame.

I was excited when presented the opportunity to have my very own mug shot. Instead of thinking, "Ugh, like a criminal?" I immediately thought, "Cool, like an heiress!" And I didn't have to selfishly risk the lives of others to obtain it. You can score mug shots for free at the San Diego Sheriff's Museum. And since it's in Old Town San Diego on a street lined with free historical tours, a haunted house and kickin' Mexican joints, it's so worth a roadtrip from L.A.


Attn: Abusive Yelpers - Watching The Food Network does not make you a pro!

I toast to Umami Burger!
I am lucky to have one of the best jobs in the world - a food critic. I'm no Jonathan Gold, but I'll take what I can get. When I started reviewing restaurants, it was difficult not to give myself away. I'd have to take notes and steal a few photos without the waitstaff catching on.
sweet date soda with pine nuts
But these days with Yelp, anyone who can afford a meal feels entitled to write about food. Now when the waitstaff sees me scribbling notes or taking photos of my meal, they just roll their eyes and assume I'm a Yelper. And they have every right to roll their eyes. In this age of cyber-bullying, these anonymous diners pull no punches, critiquing the meal as if their exposure to The Food Network entitles them to rip a restaurant to shreds. Even world-reknown food critics have respect for these establishments.

That's why we have F YOU YELPER, just a little thing to help lash back at the cyber bullies, who consider themselves pros because they just found out that truffles aren't just chocolates. Always with the truffles.

Except, there is one place where ALL the bad reviews are deserved. Listen to these Yelpers when they warn you about Oasis Thai Spa. They have every right to believe it was built over the portal to hell.


Magic Johnson Foundation Celebrates 20 Years

with Tess Finkle of Metro PR
Twenty years ago, Magic Johnson did something that most people wouldn't dream of doing. He announced to the world that he was HIV positive. While now it may seem less taboo, back then an admission like that was unheard of, and the open atmosphere surrounding this illness is something that younger generations take for granted. But instead of withdrawing into seclusion, he moved on after leaving the Los Angeles Lakers. He started the Magic Johnson Foundation and has worked hard to educate and inspire people all over the world.

To commemorate 20 years since his historic announcement, the Magic Johnson Foundation celebrated their 20-year anniversary with a Point Forward event at the Staples Center. Metro PR helped orchestrate this important day, which included a press conference, inspiring speeches and afterwards, a celebration of 20 years of service.


With friends like these...

Good times at the historic Beverly Hills Hotel, where we helped to raise money for Friends of the Family. The famed "pink palace," where Marilyn Monroe once lived and which served as the silhouette on the Eagles' album cover of Hotel California, can now be crossed off my bucket list. The proceeds raised that night helped to improve the lives of young Angelenos in need, so we're investing in making Los Angeles a better place to live. In the end, it can be viewed as almost selfish. One less idiot gangster/tagger/freeloader off the street is always a plus in my eyes. I just don't get people who wear belts, yet still need to hold their pants up with their hands. It makes no sense.

Stephanie Yamashiro & co.
Best of all, the organization is not just handing over funds to these kids, replicating the black hole that is our broken welfare system. The kids are being taught to fish, and how to take responsibility. And in the sink or swim environment of Los Angeles, it's vital. It was a night of inspiring speeches, delicious food and a very impressive silent auction!

breathtaking vintage chandelier in the ballroom


Litzaya "Redrum" Ahumada


Thank you Natalie Wood

My mother always had a thing for Natalie Wood. The actress died when I was a child, and that tragedy most likely heightened my mother's affinity. As children, she sang songs from Westside Story while cleaning the house, especially Maria. She sat us before the television to watch the musical, but it never struck a chord with me, all those Anglos pretending to be Puerto Ricans dancing around with knives.

But two Christmases ago, I finally watched Miracle on 34th Street and for some reason was mesmerized by Natalie as a child. Her wide brown eyes denoted innocence, but from those irresistibly curled lips came a mature tone seasoned with a near jadedness. Shortly after, I rented Splendor in the Grass and she broke my heart. I knew that Natalie Wood had mysteriously drowned off Catalina Island and that Christopher Walken was there, but had no idea she dated Elvis, Warren Beatty, Steve McQueen and and Michael Caine. She had married, divorced and remarried Robert Wagner. She was close friends with James Dean before he died and Dennis Hopper before he made it big. It was the mystery of her death that compelled me to read her biography, but all points leading up to her sad end were just as enthralling.

There is a bar down the street from our cabin called Oyster House Saloon, a dive patronized by friendly locals. While I like the 75 cent oyster tequila shots and homemade peach vodka, this town is full of too many options for me to think much of it. That is until I found out that Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner began their romance there. They had met once when she was 10 and he was 18 at a studio or industry event, but it wasn't until that night at the bar that their ill-fated love affair would commence.

Suddenly, Oyster House Saloon wasn't just the bar everyone in Studio City goes to when they don't feel like driving. It opened my eyes and became a landmark filled with history. The walls are covered with black and white photos and relics from the past that told real stories. Growing up in a suburb where Bennigan's reigned, I tend to forget that the kitsch covering the walls may not have been placed there by a corporate-hired mall chain designer, but a natural extension of decades and decades of good times.

The biography made the saloon feel haunted, as was Catalina Island where she drowned in the sea and Laurel Canyon, where a car crash threw her and Dennis Hooper smashing through the glass and onto the street, left for dead in the middle of a winding mountain road. At the hospital, she was too frightened to phone her overprotective Russian mother, so she and Hooper called director Nicholas Ray. Finally seeing Natalie as more than just a grown child star, the experience convinced Ray to offer Natalie the role opposite James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause.
Natalie Wood helped me look at Hollywood the way a Goonie would look at a treasure map. With a mix of innocence and curiosity, this town may not just be a landmine of strip malls and yawn-worthy architecture on the West Side. There are layers that can be peeled back to reveal history, whether sordid Hollywood secrets or rogue tales from the Wild West. I thank Natalie for the reminder.


For a pretty city

According to basically everyone, the hottest girls in the USA are in Los Angeles. But of course it comes at a steep price. Going to bed hungry, laser resurfacing, etc. Thankfully, this pretty city has Pretty City, to link us to spa deals and discount beauty products.

Thank you Pretty City and SHAPE magazine, for throwing us an amazing bash in Beverly Hills! We always get excited when handed gift bags so heavy, it brings up bad memories of carrying sacks of flour dressed in baby clothes in a futile attempt to stop teen sex. But I digress. My friend Litzaya was so excited about her gift bag, she refused to look at its contents until she came home, where she said going through it will, "...feel like Christmas."

We were treated to raffle prizes, manicures, massages, eyebrow shaping, hairdos and make-up artists painting on new, better faces. We had wine, spicy tuna tartare, Kobe sliders, cupcakes, candy, brie cups and my new favorite finger food: fried chicken and waffles on a stick. Before their time, my friend. Before their time.


A Night of Beauty

If there was ever a town that appreciated beauty, it would be Los Angeles. But this party celebrated not the liposucked, spray-tanned beauty wrapped in bandage dresses; this party celebrated a higher beauty. Art. 

Held in the Vioski showroom, Vioski showed off their high-end furniture. Guests were invited to lounge upon the art which they called furniture. 
Alexis Monsanto showcased their couture dresses. These one-of-a-kind pieces were showcased on slinky Asian models, none of which were spray-painted orange.

John Wolf showcased his fine art collection on the walls - surreal, complicated images of men and women. 

Even the food was beautiful. Tiny glass cups of sesame kale salad, bacon-wrapped dates with broiled bleu cheese and decadent strawberry cupcakes. 

But of course, something always happens to remind you that you're still in Los Angeles. And that something is reality TV cameras. Vic Cohen from Mobbed took off all of his clothes (like, all of them) and crawled into bed. At first, we thought he was a party prankster and piled into bed with him, spilling cocktails (sorry Vioski!) and making sick jokes. A man was filming the whole thing, and we assumed it was Vic's drinking buddy. Tony Hulse from Shifed2U got all the footage, and Lord knows where that will end up.

Good times!


Red Vines vs. Twizzlers

If you thought gangsta rap was the great divide between the East Coast and West Coast, then you've never debated Red Vines vs. Twizzlers.

East Coasters heartily defend the Twizzler, pointing out that it's the only candy to make it to movie theatres coast to coast, plus it came out decades before Red Vines. West Coasters just roll their eyes and buy them by the bucketful; something Twizzlers can't offer. In classrooms and break rooms across California, even East Coasters can't help but pull out a straw and start gnawing.
What's the difference between the two? Twizzlers are softer and more flavorful, while Red Vines are chewier. In the end, it's simply a matter of flavor vs. texture.

Heated arguments ensue here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Which side are you on?