LA’s Animal Restaurant is Launching its ’10th Anniversary Fairfax Tour’

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Longtime friends and business partners Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo bring a singular vision to just about everything they do. And they do a lot.

The restaurateurs and chefs opened the meat-centric Animal restaurant in 2008, and won a James Beard Award for it in 2016 (while winning celeb fans the likes of Jessica Alba, Jon Favreau and Justin Timberlake). They opened Son of a Gun (casual seafood) in 2011; and then came their forever buzzing Italian spot on Fairfax, Jon & Vinny’s. On top of that, they run Carmelized Productions, a catering company frequently called upon by the Hollywood elite. They’ve got a hand in Ludo Lefebvre’s three LA restaurants, as well as Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson’s Kismet in Echo Park. They’re even partnering with Delta Airlines, to kick those first-class meals up a few thousand notches.

Collaboration is no foreign territory. So it made sense then, that in celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Animal, they’d call upon their celebrated chef brethren and sistren for the honors. They’re officially calling it The Animal 10th Anniversary Fairfax Tour, which will be a year-long series of exclusive dinners created by some of the industry’s biggest names: Thomas Keller (French Laundry), Tom Colicchio (Craft LA), and Gabriela Camara (Contramar) are all on board. Check out the full list of participating chefs.

In the lead up, we sat down with Dotolo, who spilled some of the details of the tour.



How did the idea for the Fairfax Tour come about?

We wanted to celebrate the milestone by having friends, mentors and colleagues come cook with us at Animal. The tour idea was set as if a band was to come to a famous venue to play. This will be like that.

Ten years in this business is no small feat. What are some of the ways you’ve seen the restaurant grow and evolve that have been particularly inspiring to you as chefs and restaurateurs?

Ten years feels pretty amazing, it’s honestly a dream come true. The restaurant is constantly changing and evolving from food and drink to service procedures, uniforms, new bathrooms. Sometimes it’s things people don’t see; we always seem to be fine-tuning daily, weekly, monthly, yearly. What inspires us is our amazing customer and fan base, as well as our amazing teams that make it all happen every day.

You’ve got an incredible roster of chefs on board for this tour. How did you manage to get everyone to come on board?

Some of them have cooked at Animal before, like Chris Kostow, Naomi Pomeroy, and Nate Appleman. We literally just started texting and asking people and we had a really great response. We had so many others we want to invite, but it was hard to squeeze everyone into the time frame we set.



Do you see this as potentially going beyond just the year?

We’ve been doing a “cooking with friends” series since the first year at Animal. Sometimes it’s been a lot of people in a year and sometimes it’s mellow. We’ve hosted lots of cookbook dinners over the years, but as far as the ten year is concerned, we are just planning what we’ve outlined…though we might add a second leg [of the tour].

What kind of presence will you have at the dinners, if any?

We will do some things on menus if the chef we are hosting wants us to. We’ve split menus in the past, and also let them have the entire thing. It’s really up to them. Our job is to be good hosts and give them all the support they need and show them a good time in LA.

What are you most excited about with this tour?

Giving our staff the opportunity to learn from these incredible people and chefs.

(Each dinner will be formatted differently based on the chef. Tickets will be sold on RESY. Pricing and details for each will be announced 30 days prior. To stay in the loop and score tickets, sign up for the Animal newsletter on their website.)




BlackBook Exclusive: Herringbone Los Cabos Exec Chef Alex Branch’s Ceviche Secrets

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Its provenance is hotly debated. Ceviche is said to have come from the Moors, who brought it to Peru in the Spanish invasion. Others declare it an Incan dish – invented somewhere between Ecuador and Peru. Polynesia, North Africa, the Middle East all come up in origin stories.

But no matter where it’s from, there’s a reason ceviche has transcended borders and cultures for thousands of years: its simplicity, light citrusy flavors, and natural cooking method make it a go-to dish from Latin America to North America to Europe. 

Alex Branch, exalted Executive Chef at Vidanta Los Cabos’ Herringbone and Casa Calavera, knows plenty about making a heavenly ceviche. He features them on his menus, using locally sourced ingredients (an essential component), in regular rotation. We recently had the privilege of sitting down for an life-altering ceviche brunch with him on a recent visit to the posh resort – where he imparted insider tips and exclusive recipes. 

Here’s what we had – and what you need to know to do it yourself.




The Insider Tips

Freshness is Everything: Always use fish that “smells like the ocean, not like fish,” says Branch. Buy from a reliable market, keep it on ice until ready to make your ceviche. Make sure to remove the bloodline in the fish too. It will add a fishy flavor.
Go Line-Caught: It’s a more sustainable method of fishing. Also, when fish are pulled out of the ocean alive, they’re less susceptible to absorbing bacteria from the ocean water.
Avoid Oily, Fatty, or Muscle-y Fish: The best fish for ceviche are semi-firm, white-fleshed fish like sea bass, striped bass, rockfish, snapper and cod. Avoid fish like mackerel, salmon, and swordfish.
Don’t Over-Marinate: Most chefs cure their fish for about 10-20 minutes or until fish is just opaque, depending on the desired doneness. Don’t overdo it or the fish could fall apart.


The Exclusive Recipes 


Tuna Poke

35 g Bluefin tuna, diced
15 g charred pineapple, diced
8 g Fresno pepper, sliced thin
10 g Maui onion, cut ¼” slices
5 sprigs fresh cilantro, divided
1 pinch chili powder
1 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 oz. Fresh-squeezed orange juice
1 oz. soy sauce
½ oz. sesame seed oil
Lime wedges for serving
Clean the tuna and cut into bite-sized chunks, set aside. In a bowl, mix the pineapple, onion, Fresno pepper, 3 cilantro sprigs, juices, soy sauce and sesame seed oil. When ready to serve, add the tuna to the pineapple mixture and top with the rest of the cilantro sprigs and lime wedges.




Totoaba “Sea Bass” Ceviche

Makes: 4 servings
80 g white fish like sole, sea bass or grouper
20 g kosher coarse salt
50 g lime juice, separated
30 g white onion, chopped
15 g olive oil
 5 g serrano chili pepper, finely diced
10 g California banana peppers, thinly sliced
28 g capers
15 g green olives, roughly chopped
80 g cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
20 g fresh cilantro leaves
1  diced avocado
Dice fish and add salt and lime juice to cure, set aside 10-20 minutes. Add in chopped onion, olive oil, serrano chiles, and Banana peppers, mix well. Add capers, olives, and tomatoes. Top with cilantro and a wedge of avocado.

Ceviche de Maiz

Makes: 4 servings
80 g white fish
25 g lime juice
20 g kosher coarse salt
30 g white onion, chopped
16 g olive oil
30 g sweet corn on the cob, removed from cob
30 g white corn on the cob, removed from cob
 5 g serrano chili pepper
20 g avocado, diced into cubes
20 g fresh cilantro leaves
Dice fish and cure with salt and lime juice, 10-20 minutes. Add chopped onion, olive oil, and corn, mix well. Add serrano chili pepper and avocado cubes. Top with cilantro and serve.



Above two images by Megan Martin

Revisiting LA’s Relentlessly Hip Silver Lake…Before the Tourist Invasion?

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It happened in Williamsburg. While that now media saturated hood had already become ground zero for the unstoppable hipsterization of Brooklyn, when the first sceney boutique hotel, The Wythe, opened in 2012, it was off to the races…and on to the inevitable yupsterization phase.

Arguably its Los Angeles equivalent, Silver Lake, has already sort of gone beyond having that moment; at this point, it’s a bit of a parody of a neighborhood having a moment. Celebrities, boutique coffee roasters, and critically acclaimed chefs are as common a sighting as people in wool hats rolling their own cigarettes. Surrounded by Echo Park, Los Feliz, and East Hollywood, Silver Lake is the ultimate epicenter for the young and trendy of LA.

But word has it that SL’s first boutique hotel is set to open at Sunset Junction in early 2019…which means hipster-seeking tourists will be soon added to the mix.



We would tend to avoid anything that’s already been labeled “tragically hip” (as Silver Lake was in a GQ piece earlier this year); but after recently spending the day meandering through rows of sun-drenched houses, sipping on high-voltage cold brew and feasting on produce fit for the gods, we too found ourselves newly enamored of its undeniable charms. And so just might try to get in as much time pre-hotel opening. 

Should you be so intrigued, here is our by-no-means-exhaustive guide to Silver Lake at this pivotal cultural moment. Funny enough, and in very un-LA fashion, you can actually get everywhere on this list without driving.


A Cool Caffeine Jolt

First things first, coffee. Intelligentsia (3922 Sunset Blvd) is located in a bright red building in Sunset Junction’s open air pavilion. Unlike many of the austere, minimalist cafes trending as of late, it has a refreshingly vibrant sensibility. They’re one of several single source roasters in the area; and like Stumptown, they were recently acquired by Peet’s. Dinosaur Coffee (4334 Sunset Blvd), co-owned by one of the founders of Cards Against Humanity, and Philly export La Colombe (3900 Sunset Blvd) are just a stone’s throw away, as well. 


La Colombe


An SL Art Fix

Next stop, the Sunset Pacific Motel (4301 Sunset Blvd). It’s known to locals as the Bates Motel, because of its location on Bates Ave, and its menacing facade. In 2015, artist Vincent Lamouroux whited out the abandoned building with limewash, in an activation he called ProjectionLA – prompting other street artists and passersby to leave their marks. And though it’s inevitably going to be torn down and redeveloped, for now, it’s living public art.
Speaking of public art, remember the cover to Elliott Smith’s Figure 8 album, when he stood in front of that black and white swirl mural? The photo was shot by Autumn de Wilde on Sunset Boulevard (4334 Sunset Blvd), and part of it still stands today. But only part of it. This past year a wine bar replaced half the mural with glass block windows. The neighborhood revolted by never going there, putting the bar out of business less than a year after it opened. When will they learn? Don’t mess with emo kids.



Upscaling Mexican

After paying your respects, pop in to Trois Familia (3501 Sunset Blvd). The imaginative, if not totally practical, fusion concept blends French and Mexican cuisines (though leans more French). Ludo Lefebvre joined forces with Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo to bring this idea vividly to life with dishes like the beet tartare tostada and a double decker potato taco with lime and crème fraiche. The rainbow neon, ‘70s funk music, and strip mall location all feel exceptionally on-brand for the area.

Gorgeous Things (To Buy)

If your credit cards are like hot, burning coals in your wallet, there are plenty of places to use them. Find yourself an orange and blue vase from the ‘60s or a hand-woven rug made of alpaca fur; there are no shortage of stores filled with good-smelling, carefully considered wares. Le Labo (3531 Sunset Blvd), Clare V. (3339 Sunset Blvd) and the Dream Collective (1404 Micheltorena Ave) are all within spitting distance.
A winding, twenty-minute detour leads to Silver Lake Boulevard and 1619 (1619 Silver Lake Blvd), a gem of a vintage store with elegant silk slips, kimono robes, crocheted dresses, and so much more. They also have a sprawling outdoor patio, where they plan to host regular craft fairs over the summer (how very on-trend).


Clare V.


Trendy Sustenance 

A few steps away is L&E Oyster Bar (1637 Silver Lake Blvd). Grab a spot on the outdoor balcony for some dry white wine, fresh-shucked oysters and other seafood menu delights. It’s pretty easy to snag a bar seat or table here at any given time – there’s a lounge upstairs, and a full-service restaurant downstairs.
Just across the way is Botanica (1620 Silver Lake Blvd), which opened to much anticipation last year. The multi-platform establishment (part market, part all-day restaurant, part publication) is owned by editors and chefs Emily Fiffer and Heather Sperling. Their expertise in California produce and natural wines shines through on the menu. The airy, wood-lined space (formerly a liquor store built in the 1940s) was reimagined by design firm Weekends.




Hipster Bands + Hipper Comedy

If the sun has fully set, or who cares if it hasn’t, make your way to Silver Lake’s obligatory legendary music venue, The Satellite (1717 Silver Lake Blvd). Rilo Kiley, the White Stripes, and even the New York Dolls have graced the marquee and stage here. It doubles as a comedy club too, with regular sets from local faves John Early and Neil Hamburger.


The Satellite


Four Days, One Deadly Sin: Eight Gloriously Indulgent Moments From ‘Vegas Uncork’d’

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It’s true. In Vegas, there really is no such thing as too much or too many. Tourists, drinks, casinos, pools – the bigger, the biggerer.

In the last decade and a half, this philosophy has taken over the restaurant scene as well, and the concentration of celebrity chefs is borderline intoxicating: Gordon Ramsay, Alain Ducasse, Wolfgang Puck, David Chang, Bobby Flay, Giada De Laurentiis, and pretty much everyone else you’ve ever heard of is setting tables on The Strip. And every year, Bon Appétit throws a really big party with them.

Indeed, this past weekend, Condé Nast’s epicurean bible hosted its 12th annual Vegas Uncork’d, a four-day festival that includes a plethora of food and wine events scattered over several of the higher-end resorts. Thousands came just for the occasion, including us, and left vowing not to eat again for at least a month.

But, of course, it was all an impossibly indulgent good time; and here are some of our favorite experiences, flavors, and run-ins from the big – no bigger – festival.


The Sheer Magnitude of Friday Night’s Grand Tasting Event

A massive gathering at a most appropriate venue, Caesar’s Garden of the Gods Oasis, 2,500 hungry fans assembled to worship at the altars of their favorite chefs. Marble statues gazed upon the palatial grounds as festival-goers elbowed their way to bite-sized tacos, meatballs, puff pastries, chicken lollipops, cheesecake, and so, so, so much more. Our favorites included Rao’s veal and pork meatballs, crispy crab tacos from Joe’s, and Beijing Noodle No. 9’s salt and pepper chicken. Over 50 top chefs participated, and over 100 wine and spirits were represented as well. Fit for an…emperor.



The American Wagyu Carpaccio from Gordon Ramsay Steak

Say what you will about the firm-but-fair star of Hell’s Kitchen. The fact that his team flawlessly executed hundreds – okay, thousands – of small plates of Wagyu beef carpaccio with deviled quail egg, aioli and peppery arugula speaks to his perfectionist, do-or-die attitude. Gordon Ramsay Steak is just one of six of his restaurants in Vegas. He also just opened Hell’s Kitchen at Caesar’s. $)(&$^)#^@!!!


She has a last name, but it’s totally unnecessary. Giada’s like the Cher of the culinary world, and notably just the third female chef to open a restaurant on The Strip, the eponymous Giada’s at the Commonwealth. Ceiling shattering aside, much like her celebrity chef brethren, she’s also quickly opened a second spot bearing her name this year, Pronto by Giada at Caesar’s. The former features the no-fail takes on Italian cuisine that made her cookbooks and TV show so ubiquitous…as well as those spectacular views of Bellagio’s fountains. The latter offers an impressive selection of Italian and Californian wines by the glass, bottle, and flight. We did all of it.

Chef Nobu Matsuhisa

Chef Nobu made history in 2013 when he opened the first restaurant-turned-hotel located adjacent to Caesar’s Palace, aptly named Nobu Hotel. He now owns three eponymous restaurants in Vegas, one in Caesar’s, one at the Hard Rock, and a 12,775-square-footer at the Nobu Hotel. Naturally, his presence was everywhere this weekend. He even hosted a private dinner where he indulged guests in Nobu caviar, fresh-shucked oysters coupled with Dom Pérignon Champagne, and of course, a variety of sumptuous traditional sushi. Heaven.



The Midsummer Night’s Dream Vibes at Picnic at The Park

We followed the Grand Tasting with a flight of Italian wines at Pronto in Caesar’s, because when in an opulent, artificial replica of Rome…well, you know. So heading back into the festival decadence once more felt trying. That is until we arrived at MGM’s The Park (formerly the Monte Carlo). The sweaty tourists slapping the pavement in flip flops were but a distant memory as we were whisked into a neo-Elizabethan dream sequence. There were fresh florals, models in full body paint, and a dozen more small plates to sample. Chefs like Masaharu Morimoto, Shawn McClain, and Michael Mina, along with Ketel One, put together a beautiful lunch al fresco.



Meat, Meat, Meat

Picnic at The Park was a celebration for carnivores, undoubtedly. The wafting scents of short ribs, acorn-fed 100% Iberico de Bellota, lamb rib, octopus, prime rib, and smoked bone-in Wagyu brisket all being grilled, smoked, or cured on-premise made certain that Moby and Morrissey would be nowhere within ninety miles.

A Taste of New York at the Cosmopolitan

What’s great about staying at The Cosmopolitan, aside from their positively chic and fabulous rooms in the newly constructed Boulevard Tower, is that guests can get a taste of New York’s finest. From Blue Ribbon to Momofuku to STK to Beauty and Essex, outposts of some of NYC’s trendiest and tastiest can be found there. As we’re now based in LA, we eagerly indulged in some of our old Gotham faves, from the Blue Ribbon steak tartare, to David Chang’s pork belly buns and hamachi crudo.



Phillip Park’s Wine Tasting

Phil Park ascended the chain at Caesar’s over the years, beginning as the head sommelier at Guy Savoy, and now holding court as the director of wine for all of the Palace. Bon Appétit’s wine editor Marissa Ross welcomed guests to the first-ever Sip of the Culinary Empire at Vista, and the two-hour tasting took guests on a drinking tour of Caesar’s famed restaurants. They started with glasses of Krug Grande Cuvée champagne, followed by Hokusetsu YK 35 sake out of cedar boxes (a la Nobu). But the absolute winner was a divine glass of 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon from Caymus Vineyards in Napa – a wine that, much like the rest of this highly curated weekend, will make going back to Seamless and cheap reds feel like an absolute crime.


Opening Weekend Report: Calvin Harris + Steve Aoki Man the Decks at OMNIA Dayclub at Vidanta Los Cabos

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Steve Aoki at OMNIA Dayclub


This past weekend marked the gigantic, super hot opening of not two, not three, but four new Hakkasan Group properties at Vidanta Los Cabos. To celebrate, they managed to put together the all-starriest of all-star lineups at the new OMNIA Dayclub – namely DJ Steve Aoki, Zedd and Grammy winning globetrotter Calvin Harris. The splashy Vidanta is fast on its way to reinventing the mega-resort experience, and this weekend proved they have the grandiosity of vision to pull it off.

Here’s how it all went down – at least as much as we can remember. 



Lunch at Casa Calavera

You can’t go to Mexico without indulging in, well, real Mexican food. But the alliterative Casa Calavera takes the cuisine to dizzy and creative new heights. The menu features a range of ceviches, ensaladas, tacos with made-to-order tortillas, and cooked-to-perfection meats like the Korobuca baby back ribs. The open-air design is chicly complemented with a colorful display of Mexican tiling and various Day of the Dead references. And all just steps away from the beach…

Dinner at Herringbone

Chefs Brian Malarkey and Alex Branch personally introduced us to the Cabo rendition of Herringbone’s renowned “Fish Meats Field” coastal cuisine – using carefully sourced local ingredients. Waiters ushered out plate after plate of delicious fare: ceviche, buffalo octopus, and entrees like the grilled sea bass and prime-aged beef. Each course had a cocktail to match, concocted by Hakkasan’s wonderful and self-proclaimed Galactic Beverage Commander Constantine Alexander. We particularly loved the Hibiscus Margarita and the Just About Pearfect – spiked with the weekend’s most prominently placed spirit, Absolut Elyx.




Steve Aoki at OMNIA Dayclub

The Vegas-style sister of Hakkasan Group’s new-to-Cabo properties, OMNIA opened its doors for a pool party spectacular and apparently, the wildest nighttime DJ set known to man. Aoki showed up (eventually) to play well into the night, spiking the energy levels from 10 to off-the-Richter-scale…as he does. Fireworks, flowing bottles of booze, and those tubes that shoot blasts of white powdery air into the crowd – all there. So was the most gorgeous crowd of people ever to share the air in one Cabo venue. Night one set the tone for a weekend of Spring Break-style fun, replete with glittery scenesters, glam fashion blogger types, and the boyfriends tasked with taking their photos.



Happy Hour at SHOREBar

We’d settled in nicely to our routine of eat-drink-dance at this point. the SHOREBar (yes, another one of Hakkasan Group’s famed nightspots) served as the central meeting point / clubhouse for playing ping pong, snacking on late-night quesadillas or prepping for da clurb over more cocktails. Friday night’s party was but a trace of EDM memory after our ceviche and paloma lunch at Herringbone. We were ready to see Zedd, and so were hundreds of other daytime revelers. Back to OMNIA…




Zedd at OMNIA Dayclub

German record producer Zedd brought the house down as we watched this place do what it was meant to do: reign supreme as the day club of Cabo. The place was packed with drinking, swim/wading, wet t-shirted twenty-somethings bouncing up and down to their favorite tracks. Three model-esque women in shamrock-green suits lathered each other with sunscreen in front of the stage before leading a conga line through the party, oversized bottles of champagne their batons. Madness ensued, but in the best possible way. Two thumbs up for OMNIA security – the worst we saw go down was a phone in the pool.


Zedd at OMNIA Dayclub


Back to Herringbone for Dinner

Yes, we indulged in another three-course, forty-dish dinner at Herringbone because…when in Rome. Ceviches, fresh salads, octopus, seafood towers of oysters and crab claws – and those were just the apps.

Calvin Harris at OMNIA Dayclub

Squeezing our way into this party was a feat. The crowd was popping off, as they say. Though this space will continue to serve as a day club, it’s without question a hot, hot nightclub. The only problem being the pool, which ate up the space, forcing everyone to squeeze around it without falling in (it was a bit too cold for nighttime swims) throughout Calvin Harris’ incredible four-hour set. Mind you, it was now Saturday. Most guests had been in Cabo at least 24 hours at this point, and everyone had really hit their festi stride. Let’s just say, the evening was a success of monumental proportions. Harris played well past his set time, and a fireworks display synchronized to Katy Perry’s “Baby, You’re a Firework,” made everyone go f*cking nuts. And after hours and hours of soaking up the spectacle of crowds dancing on daybeds, ordering this many bottles, and basically climbing the walls to deep house – we escaped into the quieter confines of ShoreBar before calling it a night.


Calvin Harris at OMNIA Dayclub



Recovery Brunch

Ahhh, Sundays in Cabo. Inevitably, a wave of end-of-vacation sadness hits land, but it’s hard to stay sad at Vidanta. Birds chirped and the ever-kindly staff smized at us as we made our way, one last time, down the path to righteous salvation: brunch. Sunshine poured into the airy space at Casa Calavera, and a handful of us indulged in a final family meal. And what a meal to bid us adieu: french toast, huevos rancheros, enchiladas in mole sauce, chilaquiles, scrambled eggs with lobster. Some kind of effervescent tincture. Oh, and coffee. Lots of coffee.
All in all, the perfect party weekend. By the looks of it, the first of many, many to come.


Above, Casa Calavera, the Skywalk at Vidanta Los Cabos

Calvin Harris + Steve Aoki to Open Extravagant New OMNIA Dayclub at Vidanta Los Cabos

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As if there weren’t enough reasons to jet down to Cabo for the weekend. It’s only a short two-hour haul from L.A., Dallas, or Phoenix (and just a couple more if you’re in one of those “Upper States”).

There’s already no shortage of hooks: infinity pools, year-round sunshine, all-night clubs. But now, with the Hakkasan Group putting its extravagant lifestyle-entertainment stamp on the lavish Vidanta Los Cabos, we find ourselves officially out of excuses to not make a break for the border.

February 23 marks the opening weekend of the resort’s brand-new OMNIA Dayclub, SHOREbar, and two new on-site restaurants. Naturally, they’ve got a major, long-weekend-long wingding planned, a three-day launch party that includes superstar performances from Calvin Harris, DJ Steve Aoki, and hotshot German-Russian record producer Zedd. 

Here’s what else to look forward to.


OMNIA Dayclub

Overlooking the Sea of Cortez, OMNIA Dayclub makes an excellent escape from, well, reality. The DJ-centric scene features VIP bungalows, private infinity plunge pools, and, well, lots of sexy people watching. 



Casa Calavera

Skip over to this restaurant in between DJ sets at the OMNIA. Casa Calavera sits adjacent to the club and offers up deliciosos platos of authentic Mexican eats, in a Day-of-the-Dead-chic atmosphere.




If you’re interested in escaping the untz untz for a moment (we definitely get it), then the SHOREbar will be your ideal wind-down jam. It’s a casual but still kinda fancy cocktail spot, with a wooden thatched roof overlooking the resort’s main pool. Great drinks, good vibes, audible conversations.




For a more plush dinner experience, it’s all about celeb chef Brian Malarkey’s first-ever “Fish Meats Field” concept restaurant located outside these United States. Here, you can immerse yourself in the beachside beauty and while indulging his signature creative dishes based on locally sourced ingredients. Minus the thumping soundtrack. 


Our Favorite New Palm Springs Hotel: The Kimpton Rowan

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For anyone lucky enough to live in Los Angeles (said without the least bit of irony), you’ll quickly find that the weekends were made for Palm Springing. Just a couple hours southeast PS has a long history of acting as part-time playground for Hollywood players who like to…play. Indeed, Sinatra bought a house there in ‘47, and the rest, as they say, is history.

And history is indeed everywhere in Palm Springs; you can’t throw a cactus without hitting a drool-worthy mid-centch style home. And beyond the architecture, the heat, and the glowing blue pools beckon year-round.

And we just found yet another reason to visit: The Kimpton Rowan’s new plot of land just off Palm Canyon Drive, on East Tahquitz Canyon Way, right smack in downtown. It’s one of the first hotels to take up residency on this main stretch, which means: several great bars and restaurants are within walking distance. That is, if you feel the need to leave the grounds at all.



We arrived on a typically warm afternoon this month, and were immediately taken with the airy atmosphere. A woven hemp macrame that looks like a gigantic owl hangs behind the check-in desk. The sprawling foyer and 30-foot ceilings offer a breathable sense of anonymity. However, if it’s social interaction you’re after, the lobby bar is the perfect place for it.

After checking in and star-fishing across the plush, comfy bed, we waste very little time getting to what would obviously become our favorite spot: the rooftop pool. Yeah, naturally. Up there, one can lounge on a chaise and beckon waiters bearing effervescent cocktails, all while looking out over spectacular views of the San Jacinto Mountains. Work, read, relax…or take a dip in the heated pool even if it’s a chilly Palm Springs evening (they do have them). Though you may find yourself in the crossfire of a splash or two – the hotel is kid-friendly.

The rooftop restaurant serves delish Californian cuisine – crudite platters that look like Oprah’s garden and a lobster roll you won’t possibly regret.



If it’s fine dining you’re in the mood for, head to 4 Saints, where Stephen Wambach puts his own spin on Mediterranean-inspired cuisine. Try the sea urchin, lobster tortellini, and kampachi with chanterelle. Yum, x 10. 

As we mentioned before, the location means you’re within spitting distance from all the action and people watching. Just around the corner is the Palm Springs Art Museum, which is worth checking out if for the building itself. Some notable spots to dine nearby would be Rooster + Pig (delicious Vietnamese-American food, as long as you’re not vegetarian); Farm which draws its menu inspiration from the south of France; and the always relaxing patio plus comfort food at Jake’s.

And for a fresh start in the morning, Kimpton’s own Juniper Table makes yummy cappuccinos and breakfast sandwiches – as well as more involved Mediterranean style bites. (Sensing a theme, no?) Or if it’s just a quick jolt of caffeine you’re craving, grab a complimentary cup of joe in the lobby as you star that top-down ride back to La La Land. 




From Terrorism to Stolen Dogs: Our Three Favorite Films From the 2018 Palm Springs Film Festival

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In the Fade 


If films are a reflection of the times we live in, then the second week of the Palm Springs International Film Festival might’ve said it best: these are some dark days (and not just in America). We caught screenings of a handful of poignant storylines that cover everything from terrorism and hate crimes to incurable physical maladies and drug addiction. That’s not to say there is no hope, of course. It just takes a lot of enduring to find it.

Here are the three beautifully tragic cinematic gems that moved us the most at this year’s festival. 


In the Fade


A young mother loses her husband and son to a terrorist bombing in the middle of one of Germany’s predominantly Turkish neighborhoods. What follows is a harrowing tale of loss, hopelessness, and racist ideologies that reveal themselves in grotesque ways. Diane Kruger’s performance as the grieving mother reveals the anguish, and impossibility, of overcoming a loss of this magnitude.




Being a teenager is hard. But it’s nothing compared to what the namesake young girl faces in “Ava”, the beautifully shot feature debut from writer-director Lea Mysius. While on vacation in France with her mother and baby sister, 13-year-old Ava discovers she’ll be blind in the matter of two weeks. The brooding youngster takes matters into her own hands – stealing a dog, strapping on a blindfold, and pushing the rest of her senses to new limits.  



Skid Row Marathon


To end on a high note (no pun intended)…watch director Craig Hayes’ documentary about Craig Mitchell, a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge who leads the long-distance runner’s club out of the Midnight Mission on Skid Row. The film is already a documentary favorite amongst the festival circuit, and received more buzz this week in Palm Springs. Hayes’ handles the topic with compassion, sharing individual stories of personal triumph as paired alongside the grueling demands of preparing to run a marathon.


Report From the Palm Springs Film Festival, Part II: Kristin Scott Thomas and Isabelle Huppert Shine

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Saoirsie Ronan and Timothee Chalamet


We’re at a festival in the southern California desert, and we are happy to report no one in attendance is wearing a flower crown. Though it’s not the fashion trends we’re after. Nope, these crowds want to see art films and bask in the warmth of a balmy January. (No “bomb cyclone” here.)

We got what we came for. In addition to dining al fresco for every meal, and hobnobbing with zeitgeisty celebs like Saoirsie Ronan, Jessica Chastain and Alison Janney, the Palm Springs International Film Festival served up spectacular cinema from around the globe. Here are a few highlights.  


The Party

Writer/director Sally Potter adopts cinematic elements of film noir in her hilarious dark comedy about a woman, Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas), just elected Minister of Health, who’s hosting a dinner party to celebrate. Shot in black-and-white, the film drops us into a non-stop plot that builds speed like a runaway train. Each character adds the weight of their own drama to the unforeseen wreckage. April, Janet’s best friend (played brilliantly by Patricia Clarkson) steals the show, dropping every line of sharply written dialogue like an atom bomb.



Oh Lucy!

It’s amazing what a hair change can do. For Setsuko (Shinobu Terajima), a Japanese woman going through the motions as a single, middle-aged hoarder in Tokyo, it does a whole lot. In Atsuko Hirayanagi’s newest film a bleach blonde, curly wig transforms Setsuko into her American alter-ego, Lucy. The story embarks on a journey of emotional trauma, cultural exchange, and unrequited love (along with a pretty stellar performance from Josh Hartnett) as she and her sister head overseas to Los Angeles. The story’s both endearing and heart-wrenching. Definitely not for the faint of heart – but then again, neither is going platinum.



The Future Ahead

For director Constanza Novick’s film debut, she weaves together a beautiful story of lifelong female friendship. We watch as Romina (Dolores Fonzi) and Florencia (Pilar Gamboa) navigate life from pre-adolescence to adulthood – complete with first kisses, first periods, motherhood, divorce. Novick wrote the script when she was pregnant with her first child. “It struck me how maternity put some distance between friends,” she said in a Q&A after the screening. Like in real life, the women have falling outs and reunions, always landing back on those familiar points of familiar contention. “It’s a passionate friendship.”



Happy End

The latest film by acclaimed director Michael Haneke (“Piano Teacher,” “White Ribbon”) opens on what looks like the lens of a teenager’s cell phone. Someone is documenting a woman as she gets ready for bed. The scene is both eerie and comical, and leaves us wondering if this is a stalker or innocent eavesdropper. So what’s happening? Well, we ask that question a lot during Happy End – and that seems to be Haneke’s intention. The lens often shifts perspectives, rarely indicating who’s behind it. Also at play are themes of class and dysfunctional family dynamics. Isabelle Huppert and Jean-Louis Xavier Trintignant put in some memorable performances, as does Fantine Harduin as an emotionally haunted youngster in her big-screen debut.