Sunday, July 12, 2015

Eat Your Drink Pop-Up at The Fat Dog North Hollywood!!!

Ever since I first sipped his truly mind-blowing, one-of-a-kind creations at a demo at Artisanal LA, and through his days at Library Bar, I've been a huge fan of Matt Biancaniello's cocktails - which he approaches more like a chef would his food, than a mixologist would his drinks: crafting with a ridiculous amount of boundless creativity and skill to perfect flavors, textures and presentation.

You know you've spotted a bar Matt's working at when the counter is so laden with herbs, flowers veggies and fruits that you can hardly see any counter surface.  There are ingredients (whether foraged or from the farmers market) you may have never seen or heard of; infusions upon infusions, combinations of flavors you would have never thought would go together. Like Pimm's Cup with lovage, thai basil, chamomile and ginger juice.  Or his latest sea urchin drink with strawberries and majoram with tequila.

And ever since he left the Library Bar, if you see him post a schedule, don't think - just drive, as fast as you can.

I almost don't want to share sometimes because the bar, the last two weeks, has already been packed with enthusiasts - and I'll be sad to make it harder on myself to access his work. But, he's just too good not to share.  Rooting for him to get his own permanent space soon!!!

What: Matt Biancaniello is doing pop-ups Wednesdays this summer at a bar/restaurant in North Hollywood!!!  Check out his latest creative concoctions from Lobster Ice Cream Cynar Affogatos to Padron Pepper Novo Fogo Cachaca with Plums & Parsley.  He uses ingredients from farmers markets so the drinks actually taste like they are good for you ;)

When: Wednesdays through August, 6pm-11pm

Where: The Fat Dog, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601 (back bar beyond patio)

How much: No admission charge - just pay for what you order!  Drinks range between $14-$18 each?  Very well worth it - you won't be able to get these kinds of cocktails elsewhere.


Anticipated drool factor: 200%!!! Don't miss your chance to experience Matt's one of a kind cocktails.  Until he gets his own place (fingers crossed for him that it happens soon?), this is the best way to track Matt and his amazing drinks down!

He'll also be at a one-day only pop-up at Sweet Rose Creamery (mid-city location) on July 19th, 4-7pm, to offer in collaboration with Chef Shiho, a kombu and white balsamic Negroni ice cream!

Catch these if you can!!!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Petrossian Caviar and Champagne Bar: Pre-Flights of Fancy at LAX

LAX never used to be a place where you'd actually look forward to spending time before your flight.

Until they made like Hollywood magic-makers, and gave the place an extreme makeover, starting with the Tom Bradley International Terminal. They introduced high end designer boutiques, gourmet dining spots powered by some of the best chefs in the city, making food options finally world class.

On our recent bucket list trip to Fiji, we were lucky enough to be invited to check out Petrossian's Caviar & Champagne Bar before our flight.

We fell in love with the sleek, shiny space at first sight - what better way to kick off a much anticipated vacation?

Every detail was carefully orchestrated to provide a luxury experience - down to the beautiful lineup of caviar spoons.

We enjoyed a bottle of Moet champagne with a tin of Transmontanus caviar - but you can choose from their full menu of caviars and list of bubbly!

Fresh made buckwheat blinis were the perfect canvas, along with creme fraiche, to showcase the luscious lil orbs.

The LAX boutique also offers Petrossian's signature cocktails, including the Fleur de Vers with Tanqueray gin, St. Germain elderflower liquer, green chartreuse, rose water, and Petrossian's trademarked caviar powder. This one would be a fun conversation starter at the bar, if you're traveling solo!

Aside from caviar, bubbly and cocktails, the bar also offers cured fish plates.  The one we had with smoked salmon carpaccio, sturgeon and their most recent release, smoked trout (my favorite, super flavorful and tender yet structured, with what tasted like a sweet glaze on top), was presented with a trio of accompaniments to spread over toast points: salmon rillete, caviar creme, and wasabi tarama (with wasabi 'caviar' - pearls made with liquified wasabi that created pleasant bursts to counterbalance the creaminess!).  This plate alone has me dreaming of the next time I get to make a luxe-stop when jetting out to some exotic location!

Oh, and for those who, like me most of time - somehow always end up cutting it close while trying to catch their flight - you can order a 'Caviar in the Air' picnic pack filled with your choice of caviar, blinis and creme fraiche (with ice, of course), and/or add smoked fish to give yourself first class treatment no matter what class you're actually flying.

If you're flying domestic (or going to Canada and pushed to a domestic terminal), you can still dine at Petrossian if you leave yourself enough time to get to the Tom Bradley terminal, through that security (you can get through security with your same day boarding pass) and back.

Last but not least, for those with a sweet tooth: I didn't expect this at all, but Petrossian actually sells these amazing chocolate pearls filled with liquor: we were given a tin of cognac filled pearls to take with us, which were perfect to snack on, on our very long (4.5 hour) boat ride to the Yasawa islands!

These pearls were so delicious, and addictive, that I headed to Petrossian's restaurant in West Hollywood the week I got back, to spluirge on another tin ($49) - they were extra tasty now that they have created a food memory of our trip to Fiji!!!

Can't wait til the next time I get to travel out of Tom Bradley!!!

Disclaimer: The LAX meal was hosted.


Petrossian Caviar & Champagne Bar (LAX)
Los Angeles International Airport - Tom Bradley International Terminal

599 World Way, Los Angeles, CA 90045
Ph: 310.216.9861



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Saturday, May 16, 2015

1MB Travels: Fiji: Adventure Flashpacking Day 5: Rainforest Ziplining, Slipper Lobsters, and Young Coconut Plucked to Order

Sunday was my last day in Fiji, and we were originally just planning to 'chill' and enjoy the beach. 

But with the impending end to a bucketlist, adventure packed trip - we decided to make the most of every minute.

With the lack of info online about activities schedules in Fiji in general (most resorts say just stop by the activities desk, and vendor websites mostly do not post times) - we'd approached the front desk the day before, asking if any zipline companies would be operating Sunday.  We were told pretty much everything is closed Sundays, and a waterfall hike run by Uprising that would require a long boat ride was our only option.  The receptionist, at our insistence, supposedly confirmed this by phone to Zip Fiji.

A former boss used to always say: "Always ask twice", and it's been a part of my don't-give-up-easy approach that's carried through to my personal life.  So, I emailed the company before bed, and sure enough, we woke to an email clearing up the confusion - they are OPEN, and would we like a car to come pick us up in the morning?

So, with a pit stop to Uprising Resort's restaurant for international style buffet breakfast...
...with fresh scrambled eggs, fluffy pancakes and the ubiquitous 'tropical juice', we were off to the rainforests of southern Viti Levu.

25 minutes, and we had arrived at Zip Fiji's private eco reserve. 
We were outfitted with gear, then a scenic (and informative, thanks to our enthusiastic guides, who pointed out and told stories about local plants along the way) hike up the mountain to get to the first platform.

The course consisted of 8 ziplines, through lush tropical greenery and over the Wainadoi river valley under the sun-soaked, cotton-puff-cloud-filled blue skies of Fiji.   

Shark diving was hard to beat, but rainforest ziplining gave us on land, an experience to also cleanse all the stresses of every day life from our systems. Both provided that pure rush, that connected with nature and made you so, so (appreciative of being) alive.

Our tour guide was awesome and turned my iPhone into a makeshift GoPro - check out his video below! (Yes my phone made it back in one piece - seems that he's done this before ;))


Zip Fiji apparently also offers several zipline adventures including one in Nadi (around the airport area!) where outdoor ziplines yield to limestone cave systems 100 meters deep that you can rappel intoWe definitely need to check that one out if we make it back to Fiji some day.

Back at Pacific Harbour, our driver was kind enough to help us pick up our luggage from Uprising Resort, and take  us over to our next hotel:  The Pearl South Pacific. 

Where all of our previous 'resorts' did have a bit of the vibe of upgraded backpacker venues, The Pearl was a true resort in the traditional sense of the word - we definitely felt a huge difference in the beautiful, very modern architecture and grounds, the level of service from the moment we set foot on property, and the fact that their restaurant had a live band at lunch, performing covers of the latest Top 40 hits poolside.

Plus, thoughtful cocktails that meld Western with local flavors!  (We had the Paw Paw Smash ($20 Fiji / ~$10 USD) with Bounty rum, coconut rum, fresh paw paw, mint and lime.  Paw paw is a local / Aussie term for papaya!)

And no mosquitos in sight - not sure how they managed this, but it resulted in our undying love for The Pearl at first (non) sight.

 We had just 40 minutes before our spa appointment - just enough time to grab a bit of lunch.

Already excited to find that we had arrived on BBQ Day, with AYCE LOBSTERS at the lunch buffet - we got a bonus in the types of lobsters that were offered, one of which we had never seen before: a Slipper Lobster, common to the Australia / New Zealand / Fiji area.  I thought they tasted a bit sweeter and more tender than the lobster we get in the States.

Here's a shot of the other super photogenic whole lobster split.

Stuffed, we headed to the spa. A beautiful, modern 4-star space that we didn't want to leave.

And yes, we reaffirmed that there is nothing in the world like a free massage in tropical paradise.
Post treatment, we got to enjoy soothing ginger tea in the lounge.  The attentive hostess, noticing that pretty much every one of our limbs were polka dotted with mosquito bites - showed us this amazing "dilo" lotion (yes, we almost spat our tea out when we first read the name, with an extra consonant inserted by our subliminal selves).  

Apparently dilo is a fruit native to the south pacific, whose 'somewhat poisonous' kernel produces an oil that became popular for healing skin ailments: the extract is supposed to enhance the skin's natural regenerative functions, and speed up healing, with antiseptic properties to boot.  It's most commonly used for burns, inflammation and rashes.
The Pure Fiji bath/body/skincare products line uses a lot of this nut oil, and the Dilo Rescue body gel in particular worked wonders to ease our evil itchy mosquito bites.

After the spa, I had only about an hour before my hired car was due to come take me to the airport, and we chose to spend it by the pool (the beach at Pacific Harbour definitely doesn't compare to Blue Lagoon's warm, crystal clear blue water and soft pristine white sand.  But The Pearl had a swim up bar!).

That's when @gourmetpigs reminded me that we still hadn't gotten a fresh young coconut.  Throughout the trip, knowing it was cliche, we still expected that coconut would be served everywhere we went - but even til the last day, it was MIA - until The Pearl.  No, they did not have it on the menu either - but when we asked the bartender, he offered to climb up a tree to fetch a fresh one for us!!!  

Now that's 5-star service!!  

We took our freshly fetched and cut coconuts to the swim up bar and toasted to one unforgettable trip.

It was hard to leave utopia - the only thing I'd missed was the chance to make a visit to the local village, but @gourmetpigs stayed an extra day and you can read all about it soon on her blog!

Can't wait til the next time we can say Bula to Fiji again!

(Read all about the other days on our bucket list Fiji trip here: Day 1 , Day 2Day 3, and Day 4)



Ph: +679-672-6045

The Pearl South Pacific Resort
Pacific Harbour, Fiji
Ph:+679 773 0022

Koro Makawa Rentals & Tours (car service)
Ph: 3450567

Day 5 costs breakdown:
  • Breakfast at Uprising Resort: included in price of hotel
  • Car service from hotel to zipline and back: $0 (FREE, courtesy of Zip Fiji), $5 Fiji tip
  • Zip Fiji:  $225 Fiji per person (~$187 USD pp)
  • The Pearl South Pacific
    • Lunch at The Pearl: $29 USD pp
    • Massage: $0 included with hotel stay, $10 Fiji tip
    • Dilo lotion: $10 Fiji
    • 1 night stay (@gourmetpigs only)
  • Car service (Koromea): $160 Fiji (~$80 USD)
  • Total: ~$307 USD

(Also see my recaps for Day 1 , Day 2Day 3, and Day 4)


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