Archive for August, 2008

Notes from the Road – Los Angeles, August 2008

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

Welcome to another installment of my travels and experience from the road.  I had some meetings in Los Angeles and was able to work in a quick pleasure trip to the City of Angels.

 

Sunday started with a very early morning flight from Las Vegas and after renting a car from Hertz, I was on my way.  We made our way to The Huntley Hotel (www.thehuntleyhotel.com) to enjoy breakfast at The Penthouse, with it’s 15th story location offering fantastic views of downtown Santa Monica and the Pacific Ocean.  With a Mimosa in hand and coffee cup steaming by my side I then took a bite into their homemade scones, which were out of this world.  They had a light, flaky consistency and a taste of warm shortbread; my English grandmother would have been proud.

 

We then continued onwards on the L.A. experience over to Chavez Ravine to watch the Dodgers (www.dodgers.com) take on the (hated) Milwaukee Brewers.  After starting with a Dodger Dog (no, I wasn’t hungry, but had to do it anyway) and a cold one, we settled into our great seats in between home and 1st, about 40 rows up.  During the game we were invited (Thanks Eddie) down to the Stadium Club level, proceeding to watch the remainder of the game from the 6th inning on, 4 rows behind home plate!  That made it much sweeter after watching the Dodgers blow a 5-1 lead in the top of the 9th, win in the top of the 9th on an Andre Ethier 2-run Walk-off home run (go Sun Devils)!

 

Dinner that night was at a place I really enjoy and have had fun times at, Robata Bar (www.robatabar.com - from the Innovative Dining Group).  The food that night was really top-notch, unfortunately the service overall was lacking (it wasn’t that busy) and the were out of at least 6-8 dishes which we tried to order.  We only found out they 86’ed certain dishes when the server came back saying, “Oh, the manager didn’t come by and tell you?”  Classy stuff people, classy.  However, the highlight of the evening was definitely the Pushback Sauvignon Blanc (www.pushbackwinery.com) we were drinking.  This wine is made by my good friend Nick Floulis – stay tuned for the ‘06/’07 reds, sure to be winners!  It was so good we had two bottles.

 

Monday I had a chance to relive my childhood a little bit, heading over to the Venice Beach area and starting the morning at Café Collage for one of the best Soy Lattes I’ve had in a long time.  We continued out to Burbank for some meetings, starting with a quick tour of Power 106’s Headquarters (www.power106.com), even getting a ‘shout-out’ on live radio from the DJ (Thanks again, Eddie).  Access Hollywood (www.accesshollywood.com)was the next stop, having a chance to tour The Tonight Show set past (Johnny Carson’s) and present (Jay Leno’s); a very cool experience overall.  Lunch was a quick respite at McCormick & Schmick’s (www.mccormickandschmicks.com), always a good choice for a midday stop, but today the food quality was definitely lacking and more average overall.  We then said goodbye to the AH peeps and headed back to the Santa Monica area for another meeting and a quick walk along the Pier, always a welcome diversion.

 

Early in the evening we started at The Belmont (www.thebelmontcafe.com) for a quick few drinks (cool spot, great happy hour), before going to our destination for the evening, STK Restaurant & CoCo de Ville Lounge (www.stkhouse.com).  Our good buddy, Sujit Kundu of S.K.A.M. Artists (www.skamartist.com) was hosting the 13th annual celebration of his 21st birthday (for you math majors, that makes him 34) and he rented out the entire restaurant and club for the evening.  The restaurant is well-designed in whites and blacks, with an indoor/outdoor setup and a prevalent bar.  It was more of a banquet-style dinner, however a true highlight was the bottles of Patron Silver in ice-buckets on every table.  The party definitely continued into Coco, with much more fun including Sujit’s many DJ’s (Vice, Eric Cubeechee, Kiss, OB-1, etc.) spinning late into the night.

 

On Tuesday morning I had a meeting which took place at The French Market & Café, a lovely little spot over in Venice.  This is a venue driven by passion and dedication to the community, which you can tell by the café menu, selection of products offered to the guest and the rotating collection of patrons visiting throughout.  It is a little off the beaten path, but if you have time make a side trip there for a mellow experience.

 

We then were able to enjoy a unique experience, heading over to the Christian Audigier (www.christianaudigier.com) offices, warehouse and braintrust for a meeting and tour in Culver City.  We even had the chance to sit down with Christian himself (quite an individual) for a little while.  This company will continue to take off in all aspects and industries that they are involved in; I am sure of it.  The CA folks took us over to a little French café, La Dijonaise (www.ladijonaise.com) for a mid-afternoon lunch.  I was actually quite surprise by the quality of food, including an excellent Escargot appetizer with garlic butter.

 

We then made our way over to Melrose and the Beverly Center, to relax a little bit before a quick meeting.  Then, we started our Downtown L.A. adventure, stopping into J Restaurant & Lounge (www.jloungela.com) for appetizers and some drinks.  This is a huge spot in Downtown, with a restaurant, outside patio, 2-floor lounge, outdoor cabanas and upstairs bar.  I would like to head back there another time if I get a chance to sit down for dinner; the appetizers were just okay, but it’s worth a visit for a full meal.

 

The highlight of the evening was to be the Dave Matthews Band (www.dmband.com) concert, which had been planned for months!  Unfortunately, we learned at about 6pm (show was scheduled to start at 7pm) that founding member of the band, Leroi Moore had passed away from complications he suffered from an ATV accident in June.  It was an odd feeling knowing that someone you had listened to play for enjoyment for years was suddenly gone, there was a fog over many people entering the concert – not knowing if the band would even play.  But play they did, with heavy hearts, emotional visages and with true professionalism.  Rest in Peace Leroi (1961-2008).

As we really didn’t eat dinner after the concert, we had to figure out something for a post-show meal and there was truly only one option.  Pink’s (www.pinkshollywood.com).  This is an L.A. institution, holding it down in the city for almost 70 years.  Chili-cheese hot dogs with onions were just what the doctor ordered at 1AM to end an outstanding day.

 

After having another meeting at another Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (www.coffeebean.com, which I think has to be my favorite coffee chain – outstanding roasted beans, quality ingredients and a dedication to its guests) we were off to one last meal in L.A.  After much deliberation, I remembered I had heard much about The Counter (Santa Monica original) and them just opening in Marina Del Rey (www.thecounterburger.com).  So we meandered over there and were pleased by our decision.  It is a relatively sparse space, with rock n’ roll pictures on the wall, tunes blaring from the sound system and a lively staff.  The menu is very straight forward, offering choices of a beef or turkey burger, or a grilled chicken breast.  Next is where it gets funky with no shortage of toppings and options for the sandwich – rumor is that there is a total of 312,000 combinations available!

 

Then, the adventure had to come to an end, heading back to LAX for the return flight to Las Vegas.  It was quite a trip, plenty of adventures and many great food and beverage experiences.  The next visit is up to San Francisco & Napa for the Family Winemaker’s Event, tasting some juice (project upcoming) and more meetings.  I promise to keep you all posted.  Keep Eating & Drinking…

 

 

Notes from the Road – Las Vegas, August 2008

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

Greetings from Las Vegas!  As I am getting ready to hit the road for travel for at least 24 out of the next 30 days, I needed to recharge here at home.  It’s been a fun few weeks, with some good dining and evening entertainment experiences.  Also, being that the Olympics are in China, I have been motivated lately to eat quite a bit of different Asian cuisines.  Really, you ask – yes, really!  Also, I have been enjoying a little bit of our local ‘culture’ here in Las Vegas and bouncing around the city – so hang on…

 

The week started with a business lunch over at the Tommy Bahama Café (www.tommybahama.com) at Town Square (www.townsquarelasvegas.com). Most of you know my thoughts on ‘chain-style’ restaurants, especially those that have licensed a name for cache only, but let me tell you this place was actually pretty good.  It is a very airy, window filled space (perfect for lunch) with a diverse, tropical themed menu.  The restaurant is actually attached to their store as well so there is quite a bit of branding/cross-marketing.  I had a simple rare Ahi Tuna salad with a mango vinaigrette, but my business associate had the best dish of the day, pan seared sea scallops and shrimp on a bed of arugula and spinach, very tasty!

 

Dinner that evening started my Asian adventures, with a visit to Pho Hoang (www.phohoangvietnamesecuisine.com), a little neighborhood family Vietnamese restaurant.  This place is not fancy at all, however the food is fresh, all has flavor and it is consistent as the day is long.  I usually get a version of Bun (Vermicelli noodles with meat), but opted for a Pho this time with beef and vegetables.  The broth was soothing to my senses and with the addition of Hoisin and Sriracha it was perfect.

 

The next evening we met up with a dear friend here in Vegas for some Korean BBQ fun at Tofu Hut.  This restaurant is located on Spring Mountain Road, in the Chinatown district of Vegas, and I must preface, you go there for the food, not the atmosphere.  We walked in and had a great server (I think co-owner as well) who was able to walk us through the entire experience.  She suggested beef short ribs, pork tofu soup (um, it is their name) and seafood pancake.  Wow, wow and wow.  The BBQ was buffered by the traditional Korean condiments including an outstanding radish Kimchi.  Overall we had a blast grilling out short ribs and sampling the dishes – looking forward to heading back there soon.

 

The next night I took a break from the Asian flavors (I know, I know) and we hit up the neighborhood bar and grill, Home Plate.  As a few of you know, this is a favorite of mine for a quick breakfast (24-hours mind you), salad, burger or just a drink while seeing our buddy Matt behind the bar.  Being that the ‘plate’ is 5 minutes from my home, it makes for a convenient stop, which is nice and easy. 

 

Friday included a rare chance to golf during the week, hitting the links at Bali Hai Golf Club (www.balihaigolfclub.com), located on the south end of the Strip.  For Summer in Las Vegas the course was in great shape and extremely well laid out – my only complaint is that it is in the flight take-off path from McCarran International Airport.  To you golfers you completely understand the need for quiet when trying to focus on a shot, but instead you get the roar of airplanes!

 

That evening I diverted back to Asian, this time sampling some Japanese sushi at Oyshi, an all you can eat concept.  Now, most of you will probably groan here, but let me tell you this place is pretty good.  The seafood is very good quality, the sushi chefs work fast and the price is extremely reasonable.  They have many of the trendy-style rolls, but also offer good sashimi, traditional sushi and a nice selection of cooked dishes.  After dinner I continued down towards the Strip, making a visit to the ever-busy PURE Nightclub (www.purethenightclub.com) at Caesars Palace.  As the current #1 Nightclub in America, PURE lived up to its reputation with a killer set by DJ Hollywood, gorgeous and personable cocktail servers and an amazing nightlife environment.

 

Saturday evening brought another tour de Vegas, including more of my Asian experience with Vietnamese again!  This time we ventured to Pho Vietnamese Cuisine at the T.I. (Treasure Island Hotel & Casino), (www.treasureisland.com).  I had heard good things about this little spot, but never had a chance to enjoy it myself.  This time we had the Summer Rolls (tasty and very fresh) and then I ordered my favorite Bun with Roasted Pork.  Thank goodness the food was good, because the service was absolutely terrible!  Unfortunately, some people in our industry should not be serving guests – this evening included one of them!  We then continued over to Isla Mexican Kitchen for some Sangria and fun times.  I personally think that Isla is very underrated as a Mexican restaurant in this city and would recommend you experiencing it yourself.

 

The rest of the evening was a blur, but included a stop for drinks at Christian Audigier The Nightclub (www.audigierlv.com), which is quickly becoming a new favorite spot of mine in town then over to Noir Bar & LAX (www.laxthenightclub.com) to check out the scene.  One of my standard phrases has really become, ‘just another night in Vegas’ and this was in full effect that night.  Fun was definitely had by all, but at the same time I have already experienced an evening like that many times before – tourists, you’re more than welcome to enjoy it 1 weekend a year, but we live here – scary!

 

And on Sunday; I rested.  Phew, another Vegas weekend in the books!  It’s going to be a quick week of meetings, phone calls and adventures before a trip over to Los Angeles.  Get ready for plenty of stories and updates from LA, I promise you it will be an amazing trip!  Take care, be well and Keep Eating & Drinking!

 

 

Notes from the Road – Summer Update

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

Summer greetings to everyone!  I hope you’ve all been able to take some time out, relax and get away while the weather is hot and the season is here.  As always, adventures have found a way into my life with travel and daily occurrences here in Las Vegas, which you’ll find below.

 

Also, recently The Nyman Group has been in the trade journals lately, namely Nation’s Restaurant News (NRN).  I was interviewed and quoted in the July 18th edition, for an article titled, “Infused – Adding a mouth-watering mix to your menu,” this piece focused on the relativity of having/adding a variety of beverages to your restaurants’ menu which had fresh ingredients or flavor infusions.  Additionally, our President, Robert J. Nyman, had a Letter to Richard Martin, Executive Editor of NRN, published speaking towards an industry-wide adjustment that must occur moving forward overall.  This letter appears in the July 28, 2008 issue

 

Wednesday evening made for a quick trip to the Las Vegas Strip for a night out on the town.  We started with Chef Hubert Keller’s Burger Bar (http://www.mandalaybay.com/dining/burgerbar.aspx), a true temple to ground meat with every topping under the sun available, including shaved black truffles, lobster tails and the like.  I chose to stay a little less adventurous (this time) selecting a Turkey Burger with Pepperjack and sautéed onions on a wheat bun – outstanding! 

 

Then we continued over to LAX Nightclub (www.laxthenightclub.com) to enjoy a surprise performance by Fat Joe (www.Fat-Joe.com), one of New York’s finest rappers.  The club was packed to the gills on LAX’s Industry Night – quite an evening out.   Before the evening was over we continued downstairs/next door to the exclusive and reservations only, Noir Bar to imbibe in the talents of the finest mixologists in Las Vegas.  I stayed classic, ordering a Pimm’s Cup, while friends enjoyed a variety including a champagne cocktail and a raspberry mint smash.

 

Later in the week, we strayed off the Strip, heading over to the Hard Rock Hotel (www.hardrockhotel.com) for the Pepper (www.PepperLive.com) and Slightly Stoopid (www.SlightlyStoopid.com) concert at The Joint.  While the concert as a whole was outstanding, the energy of Pepper truly shone through that night.  These guys have a new album that has just came out, Pink Crustaceans and Good Vibrations, make sure to head out and pick it up.  The crowd was extremely into both bands and it made for a great night out.  After the show we continued over to one of my favorite spots in Vegas, Dragonfly an Asian Joint (www.DragonflyLV.com), for Asian Tapas.  This restaurant continues to get it right with their service and delivery, as well as their varied Asian flavors menu.  Such dishes that night were the Triple Tuna Roll (Tuna Tempura, Tuna Tataki & Spicy Tuna) with Asian pesto, Crispy Salmon with Shiitake Mushroom Sushi Rice Risotto and Bok Choy as well as Asian Chicken Nuggets (trust me, they’re damn good!).

 

Saturday night started mellow with a simple dinner at home.  I had discovered at the market earlier in the day some fresh Copper River Chinook Salmon, much to my surprise and excitement.  I brought the fish home, rubbed it with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, salt and pepper, then right onto the grill.  We cooked the Salmon to a beautiful medium rare, finishing with a little fresh orange and lime juice for added flavor.  The fish was outstanding, rich with Omega-3 acids and mellow in flavor profile.

 

After dinner we continued to the Strip, heading to Las Vegas’ newest Nightlife destination, Christian Audigier The Nightclub (www.AudigierLV.com).  This hot spot is decked out black leather booths, walls featuring tattoo skins on display and a gigantic patio which fronts the famous Las Vegas Strip.  The club definitely attracts the beautiful people – both guests and staff, who are prominently attired in Christian Audigier dresses and shirts.  The evening was an absolute blast, catching up with old friends from Vegas and making new ones, as only one can do in Sin City.  If you’d like to head over to CA, let me know next time you’re making it down to Las Vegas; it is definitely worth the trip.

 

As life continues here in the desert, the temperatures are about 107 today – good reason to stay inside!  Stay tuned for upcoming travel I have planned to Los Angeles, San Francisco/Napa, Scottsdale, New York City and Miami.  Also, there is a rumor about experiencing harvest up in Paso Robles!  Be sure to remember; Keep eating and drinking!