Monday, July 11, 2011

Elite Travel Gal's Insider Guide to LA

This summer, I decided to try something different. Instead of traveling to faraway places (as I do constantly all year), I thought it would be nice to spend much of the summer here in LA. After all, it is my favorite city in the world. In revisiting my own city, I've had the chance to uncover and rediscover my own personal "Best of LA". Below are my insider tips on what NOT to miss when you visit Los Angeles next:

Best newish restaurants: They've all been open for a bit so aren't completely new, but those new to my favorites list include Red Medicine (pictured), Cleo at The Redbury, Scarpetta at Montage Beverly Hills, Culina at Four Seasons Los Angeles, La Sandia at Santa Monica Place and Public at The Roosevelt. Yes, four out of six of these are in hotels (all but Red Medicine) but they're better than most stand-alone restaurants in LA.

Best spots for a power breakfast, or any breakfast for that matter: BLVD at The Beverly Wilshire and the rooftop poolside restaurant at The Peninsula Beverly Hills.

Best spot for lunch with a Hollywood view: Poolside at The Conservatory at Montage Beverly Hills. Stunning views to be had of the Hollywood Hills and the fish tacos may be the best in town. Poolside at Four Seasons Los Angeles is perfect if you prefer privacy and an intimate outdoor setting with your seafood salad (my personal favorite) or veggie stir-fry.

Best spot in Malibu for a casual lunch or dinner: Cafe Habana (by Rande Gerber) at the Malibu Lumber Yard. The corn on the cob, shrimp ceviche, fish tacos and chicken enchilada are stand-outs & there's usually a celeb spotting or two!

Best casual Santa Monica lunch spot: My top vote goes to FIG at Fairmont Miramar. Dishes run the gamut from healthy (warm quinoa salad) to completely unhealthy (a hot dog with fritos on top and fries on the side). Great service, cheerful setting and always a terrific experience.

Best special occasion restaurants: All of those on my "newish favorites" also make this list, to which I'd add Whist at Viceroy Santa Monica, The Bazaar by Jose Andres at the SLS and WP24 at the Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles. After all these years, both Spago's Beverly Hills and Chinois on Main Street still deserves a shout out as they continue to impress with amazing food and warm service.

Best pizza (including gluten-free options for yours truly): Fresh Brothers, now open in Beverly Hills in addition to five other locations from Manhattan Beach to Calabasas

Best facialist in town: Hands down, the best hands in town belong to Vera Kantor, owner of VeraBella in Beverly Hills. Everyone from Nicole Richie to Madonna trust her with their skin, for good reason: she's the best.

Best juice in town: Pressed Juicery of course. Thrilled to see they've taken their healthy show on the road and opened at the Malibu Lumber Yard (as of last week) in addition to the Country Mart in Brentwood.

Best gluten-free bakery: Babycakes LA. A NYC import, this place rocks and is reason alone to drive downtown. Most of their delicious offerings (donuts, cupcakes, muffins, brownies) are gluten-free/vegan but you'd never know. We also love the chocolate brownies from Livia's. Handmade with love by a local family, these can be found for sale every Sunday at the Brentwood Farmer's Market (among others).

Best organic yogurt & treats: Cafe Rivva in Brentwood Gardens (same spot where my favorite nail salon, Nail Garden is located) is not just another Pinkberry-type frozen yogurt spot. There are multiple choices of organic flavor options, dairy free & wheat free options too. Chris the owner is fantastic, tell him I sent you if you stop by!

Best yoga spot: For years, I have been a YogaWorks loyalist and I still am. I rotate my mat between the Montana Ave, South Bay and Pacific Palisades studios depending on my schedule and who's teaching. Fave teachers include Al Tavera, Nichola Dunne, Doug Binzak and Amy Rose Stabley.

Other local gems: You'd never know about these places unless a local takes you....A Votre Sante in Brentwood for healthy cuisine morning til night, The Farmshop at the Brentwood Country Mart, Compartes in Brentwood for handmade chocolates, Lenny's Deli in Pacific Palisades for a typical deli-style meal, and Lares or Don Antonios for traditional Mexican food.

This is just a sampling of my personal favorites. Of course, we can always assist with booking you into the BEST hotels here in LA as we have personal relationships with the general managers and staff at each. It goes without saying that Elite Travel International clients always get the VIP treatment and lots of extra special perks here in LA. Contact us or 310.979.9036 for help with your next Los Angeles experience.