We spent Christmas last year in Los Angeles visiting Jack’s family. We opted to stay at Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel which is located across the street from the beach near the Santa Monica Pier. When we weren’t eating delicious Lebanese food prepared by my mother-in-law, we had the chance to explore some of the restaurants in the area surrounding our hotel. A friend of ours had previously recommended Rustic Canyon, so we decided to check it out one evening.
Rustic Canyon is a “Wine Bar and Seasonal Kitchen” owned by husband-and-wife team Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan. This is the first restaurant opened by the couple, who went on to open several other popular spots in LA, including Cassia and Milo and Olive. Rustic Canyon prides itself on sourcing local ingredients to make up its creative, seasonal menu. Our waiter informed us that Executive Chef Jeremy Fox has an obsession with making broths and stocks bursting with rich, umami flavor, and these are incorporated into several of the dishes.
We arrived at Rustic Canyon on a rare rainy evening in LA. We each started with a seasonal cocktail to warm us up from the inside out. Jack ordered the Apple Jack Rose (apple infused bourbon, Germain Robin apple brandy, fresh lemon, honey, housemade grenadine) and I had the Gone with the Gin (Four Pillers Gin, tangerine & rosemary syrup, lime, club soda). Both cocktails were delicious and balanced, not too sweet.
Last weekend Jack and I attended his 20 year high school reunion at the Angeles National Golf Club in Los Angeles. We had a really great time – Jack enjoyed catching up with old friends, while I got to make new ones. We typically stay in west L.A., but given the location of the reunion, we decided to explore an area of Los Angeles that neither of us have visited much: Downtown L.A.
Once we booked our hotel (the Westin Bonaventure – such a strange and dated hotel that apparently was in True Lies?), I went ahead and made a dinner reservation for us at Otium, which was recommended to us by a friend when we were visiting Lala Land over Christmas. We received so many great dining tips at that time and I’m glad I had the foresight to organize them by neighborhood in my blog post “L.A.’s Best Restaurants.”
Otium is located adjacent to The Broad (pronounced “brode”), the contemporary art museum founded by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad. It was a short walk from our hotel – once we figured out how to use the footbridges to get up the hill and around various freeway off ramps (hint: don’t rely on Google maps – ask your hotel concierge for directions).
Whenever Jack and I travel to L.A. to visit his family, we always share a large family-style meal at Carousel Restaurant in Glendale. Jack’s family is of Armenian descent, spending much of their life in Beirut before they moved to Southern California when Jack was a child. They tell me that Carousel is the best, most-authentic Lebanese restaurant in the L.A. area. I can’t vouch for its authenticity, but I will say that it serves incredible food.
Carousel has two locations, one in Hollywood and one in Glendale. I’ve only been to the Glendale location, and it is a large airy space with indoor and outdoor seating. It is perfect for large groups, especially since the food is designed to be shared. The walls are decorated with ancient swords and trinkets from the Middle East, as well as photos of Lebanon.
Jack and I recently traveled to Los Angeles to spend the holidays with his family. Jack grew up in L.A. and I went to college there, but these days we are very out of the loop when it comes to restaurants in the area. So, as I’ve been known to do, I reached out to my friends and family via Facebook to get their recommendations for restaurants in the area. We received a lengthy list of dining spots, from casual to fancy, which I thought I’d share with you here.
Whenever I plan a trip, I like to reach out to my friends and family to get their thoughts on restaurants, hotels, and activities in the area. I don’t really have the patience for weeding through guide books or the internet to find the best spots, and I find it so much more efficient (and fun!) to rely on my network of well-traveled friends and loved ones. This is why, when Jack and I recently spent the holidays with his family in Los Angeles, I immediately turned to Facebook for advice on where to eat. We received a plethora of recommendations, all of which looked incredibly delicious. We ultimately decided to go with Odys + Penelope, but I will file away the other restaurants for future visits, as they all sounded fantastic.
Odys + Penelope was recommended by our friend Lauren, who has lived in the LA area for several years now with her husband and two boys. She definitely knows and appreciates food, and she owns the sinfully decadent gluten-free baked goods company BossyCakes. So, when she described Odys + Penelope as her “number one” restaurant in LA, we were intrigued. We did a little research and discovered that O+P sounded right up our alley, as the space is rustic and urban, with an approachable menu using local/seasonal ingredients and good quality meats, poultry, and seafood.