The Restaurant at Montage Beverly Hills

Celebrity chef Scott Conant first opened Scarpetta inside the Montage Beverly Hills, then Food Network Chef Geoffrey Zakarian came in and renamed it Georgie. Both restaurants closed, and now a woman chef de cuisine, Monica Olaes is the new head of the kitchen at the renamed The Restaurant.

Sitting inside the beautifully decorated dining room, Chef Monica approached my table with a plate of her comforting purple potato gnocchi. I learned that while growing up in the Philippines on a farm, Chef Monica became a farmer tending to tomatoes, watermelon, turnip, and purple potatoes. Harvesting the produce, she and her mother went to the community farmers market every week to sell the family’s latest seasonal items. Afterwards she helped her mom in the kitchen prepare meals for the family.

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Later when her family moved to California during her teenage years, she attended the California School of Culinary Arts, Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena. With her degree, she worked in the kitchen at Fig & Olive in West Hollywood and with Geoffrey Zakarian at Georgie.

Her passion as a farmer and traveler inspires her to create exquisite seasonal dishes at The Restaurant. One of her signature dishes that wow’d me was her Fry bread. Chef Monica told me that while hiking in the Grand Canyon, she met some native Americans who were making this wonderful bread. It was warm and the best she had ever tasted, inspiring her to make something similar in Beverly Hills. Her puffy Fry bread is topped with prosciutto, Serrano chili, and a secret juniper and tarragon topping.

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The head sommelier Kristopher Messiah pairs every dish with one of the 800 different wines on his list. He curates some of the best wines from around the world, and offers a good value by the glass and bottle.

We started with a savory amuse bouche of bite-sized smoked Gouda cheese and potato croquettes dazzled with a black garlic aioli and chives, before six hot Parker House rolls arrived in a baking tin with a side of soft butter.

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Next a plate of spicy lobster mixed with harissa aioli and topped with smoked trout roe was presented on crispy rice rectangles. It was a wonderful combination of creamy and crispy with a touch of heat.

Chef Monica makes a satisfying winter chestnut and butternut squash soup and tops it with creme fraiche and crunchy pepitas. Next we tried the Kampachi crudo served with burnt avocado, prickly pear, and pickled pearl onion. I noticed Chef Monica likes to pickle and add a touch of tartness to many of her dishes. She told me that after meeting the chef at the newer Montage Hotel in Cabo San Lucas, she was introduced to the unique and pleasing flavors of burnt avocado and prickly pear.

Our server Olivia recommended the salmon tartare served with pickled ramps, puffed rice, avocado mash and a drizzling of lemon dressing. It was an excellent and light dish.

What makes Chef Monica’s purple potato gnocchi unique is the carrot curry essence. She also adds Japanese shimeji mushrooms to give a slightly crunchy texture and a subtle nutty flavor. The pickled Fresno chilis add a touch of spiciness.

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To honor Conant’s popular spaghetti dish that New Yorkers and Beverly Hills diners enjoyed, Chef Monica’s Spaghetti Arrabbiata is similar with blistered cherry tomatoes and a twirling mound of al dente pasta goodness.  

Entrees include seafood specialty dishes focusing on halibut, salmon and grilled branzino that can be ordered as a fillet or whole 1.5 lb fish. 

Chef Monica roasts and grills Jidori chicken, Colorado lamb chops and a multitude of beef cuts from filet mignon to hanger steak, ribeye and Tomahawk. Diners can select three sauces with their proteins that include a spicy chimichurri, red wine jus, and her special juniper and herb creation. 

Inventive sides include rainbow cauliflower with pickled raisins, pine nuts, olives and chopped cilantro. Her Brussels sprouts are enhanced with chopped hazelnuts, prosciutto and balsamic vinegar. Mac and cheese lovers will enjoy the combination of gooey Fontina, Gruyere, Parmesan, with leeks and topped with a panko crust.

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Executive pastry chef Amanda Lavin make an array to toothsome desserts that include a honey nut squash custard with maple crumble, that is crowned with a scoop of pomegranate sherbet. Her rice pudding is topped with red wine spiced figs and an almond tuile. We also enjoyed her cheesecake with an essence of caramelized pear and scoop of pear sorbet. 

The Restaurant is offering a New Year’s Eve four-course dinner starting at 7 p.m. There is an additional wine and champagne pairing offered with each course for an additional fee. The elegant dinner is $295 per person. 

Chef Monica is also participating in the 2019 Winter dine.L.A. event from January 11 through Friday January 25. Guests can order a three course with one side dish specially priced set menu for $59. There are a choice of three starters, entrees, sides and dessert. Menu items include her signature Fry bread topped with prosciutto or the Kampachi crudo; a juicy filet mignon or halibut, and pastry chef Amanda Lavin’s chocolate pavlova. It’s available on Sunday and Monday from 5 to 9 p.m. and Tuesday through Saturday 5 to 9:30 p.m. $$ 225 N. Canon Drive (310)860-5848.

This review was featured in the Beverly Press December 2018.

Luxury Baja Sur Resort – Villa Del Palmar

Explorer Juan Maria Salvatierra founded the Mission Nueustria Señora de Loreto in 1697. Located above Cabo San Lucas and La Paz, the colonial town of Loreto is one of Baja Sur’s gems. Surrounded by the sculpted Gigantic Sierra Mountains and the turquoise waters of the Sea of Cortez with five unique and dramatic islands, it’s an ideal safe and quieter Mexican vacation, much different than lively Cabo San Lucas.

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Alaskan Airlines flies directly to Loreto on Thursdays and Sunday from LAX, once you arrive at the airport it’s about a 40-minute shuttle ride to Villa del Palmar overlooking Danzante Bay and Isla Danzante. This luxury resort offers almost 200 guest rooms and suites with ocean, golf course and the Gigantic Sierra Mountain views.

I was pleasantly surprised by the spaciousness of my two room suite. Besides a kitchen, there is a living room, bedroom with a large whirlpool tub, walk-in tiled shower, large closet and security safe. Both the living and bedroom have glass sliding doors leading out to a veranda with a lounge chair, table with four chairs and a relaxing chair with an ottoman.

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Guests will want to spend time in the two-story 39,000 square foot Sabila Spa offering an array of massage and beauty treatments. After a treatment, guests are welcome to enjoy the various hot and cold plunge pools, steam and sauna rooms and relax in a lounge chair with a cool washcloth and sliced cucumber to cool your eyes.

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Golfers are hearing a buzz about the new 18 holes TPC Danzanta Bay golf course with a putting green and driving range. The exquisitely manicured Rees Jones designed golf course is challenging for all levels with four tees per hole. Each hole offers stunning beach, cliff and canyon views. In-house golf pro Danny Garcia is happy to give guests a tour of his course and provide instruction if needed. Be sure to visit the dramatic par 3 17th hole. It’s already gained the reputation of the most beautiful hole in the Baja Sur.

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Other activities include a morning hike to the top of a mountain, and over to an exquisite view spot overlooking the islands. There is a sign along the hike educating guests about the history of cave paintings and another directing hikers to a private beach.

IMG_6358Afterward paddle board and kayak in Danzante Bay to see rays and an abundance of fish swimming in schools. If you are lucky, rays will levitate above the water and belly flop down to create quite a splash.

Also in the morning, the staff yogi offers a beachfront one-hour yoga class. Afterward, swim in one of the five tile mosaic bottom pools to cool off. The staff host water exercise classes before lunch and pool volleyball games throughout the day.

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A boat trip can be arranged with Danzante Tours to experience “The Aquarium of the World” by Jacques Cousteau. Isla Carmen, Isla Coronado, Isla Danzante, Isla Montserrat and Isla Catalina are all part of the Loreto National Marine peninsula. It’s a marine aquarium offering a diversity of marine life and over 800 species of fish. Cruising close to the coastline, passengers will view rocky shoreline with dramatic sculpted walls.

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There are three restaurants onsite that include Casa Mia for lunch and dinner offering a variety of the margaritas, ceviche stuffed in half an avocado, and grilled fish tacos served with freshly made tortillas, guacamole, salsa and slaw. The Market is an all-day buffet venue featuring a wide variety of authentic Mexican and American favorites. In the evening theme night dinners include Mexican Fiesta, Mediterranean Feast and Italian Night. Nearby, Danzante is a fine dining experience with gourmet Mexican cuisine. Be sure to order the deconstructed tortilla soup, fresh fish of the day and Mexican coffee for dessert. A cart is rolled to your table and flaming coffee is made before your eyes.

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Be sure to attend the Beach Party on Thursday on the sand near the water’s edge. Slip your shoes off and enjoy a fiesta of Mexican delights under festive decorations. A DJ and staff encourage everyone to dance on the sand as the sun sets to the West over the mountains. Be sure to send a flaming lantern soaring with a $10 donation to an Eagle refuge organization. It’s one of those bucket list experiences where you make a wish and watch the lit lantern soar above in the dark night sky.

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While I let my lantern soar, I wished that I could come back to Villa del Palmar again this year. The next day guests were offered a tour of the model home overlooking the TPC Danzante Bay golf course. Lots are available for around $300,000 and four different floor plans to choose from ranging in size from 2,967 sq. ft. to 4,352 sq. ft. The resort will help you build a dream home for over $1,000,000.

This review was featured in JustLuxe – June 2018 –

The Most Spectacular Golf Course in Cabo San Lucas

From beginners to touring golf pros, Quivira Golf Club offers one of the most beautiful and dramatic golf courses in Mexico. This exclusive 18-hole course is available only to guests staying at one of developer and chairman Ernesto Coppel’s four Pueblo Bonito resorts and for the owners of the homes in his Quivira Los Cabos community. Pueblo Bonito in Spanish means “Beautiful Village” and each of Coppel’s resorts are exquisite.

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Driving up to the clubhouse, golfers are dazzled with the world-class Jack Nicklaus designed course that opened almost five years ago offering spectacular ocean views. Each hole offers multiple tees and some have impressive falls from each tee to the fairway.

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It all begins at the luxury and modern design clubhouse featuring elegant architectural touches among a tranquil setting. The center has an airy al fresco bar, restaurant and golf shop. It is one of the many amenities within walking distance to guests staying at the exclusive and luxurious adult-only Pueblo Bonito Pacifica and The Towers at Pacifica. Guests staying at Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach, Montecristo Estates Luxury Villas, and residential communities Copala and Coronado also have golf privileges.

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Staying three nights at The Towers at Pacifica, I signed up for a one-hour clinic with the golf pro and director Antonio Reynante. Growing up in Veracruz, he left Mexico in his 20s to study professional golf management in Temecula, CA. After getting his degree, he turned pro for three years and became a golf course instructor. When Coppel was developing Quivira, Reynante was hired as a master advisor and later the golf director.

This handsome golf professional greeted me and led me to the driving range for easy to understand instruction while hitting a pyramid of golf balls. His infectious enthusiasm inspired the non-golfer in me to be inspired to take up the sport. He patiently taught me the proper way to stand, hold a club and swing. Each contact I made that went straight was rewarded with a smile and praise.

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Taking a tour of the entire golf course, I noticed that the most spectacular holes include the oceanfront par 4 opening hole with its left-to-right dogleg. It leaves the Pacific Ocean and travels into the untouched desert with sand, cactus and a scalloped bunker near contoured greens.

What also makes this course unique is the four comfort station where golfers can stop to enjoy a bite to eat and drink. At the Cliff Comfort Station, they offer breakfast burritos, freshly made cookies and brownies, water, soda, beer, and a shot of tequila before heading up to the most dramatic tees. As golf carts serpentine up the pathway, golfers are rewarded with unparalleled ocean, Arroyo, sand dunes and dramatic cliff views.

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Climbing to the top is not one but two lighthouses. This first one is near the par 3 sixth hole. This historic castle-like lighthouse, known as Faro Viejo, dates to 1905 and is the oldest standing structure in Cabo San Lucas. It’s perched on the cliffs at the point where the Pacific meets the Sea of Cortez. The second lighthouse was built in 1959 and sits high above the 14th hole. It emits a white flash to guide ships sailing in and out of Cabo.

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After exploring the golf course, I joined others for a flute of sparkling wine and a light lunch featuring a multitude of dishes from the Latin-inspired culinary menu.

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Instead of taking a shuttle back to The Towers at Pacifica, I walked along the secluded beach to Pueblo Bonito Pacifica’s renowned Armonia Spa for a relaxing and renewing massage.

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No matter what level of golf you play, Quivira Los Cabos appeals to all of your senses. For more information and golf packages, go to Pueblo Bonito Pacifica Golf & Spa Resort.

This review was featured in JUSTLUXE December 2018.

 

Countdown in Pasadena before & during 2019

Before 2019 – Sip & Savor after seeing the Rose Bowl Floats –

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The  Pasadena Tournament of Roses is a volunteer organization that annually hosts the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl Game. This year, they have added a new Sip & Savor festival on Dec. 28-30 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Jackie Robinson Memorial Field.

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Your $15 ticket gets you into the float building pavilion first to see The Grand Marsall’s 1939 Ford Deluxe Convertible, The 1967 Crown Firetruck that the Mayor of Pasadena and others will be riding on, and the 1930 Lincoln Sport Touring Car that the Tournament of Roses President will be riding in throughout the parade.

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The floats you will see hundreds of volunteers decorating include WASHINGTON Football’s float, CHINA AIRLINES, CHIPOLTE, CAL POLY UNIVERSITIES, and 24 HOUR FITNESS.

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After the viewing experience enter the Sip & Savor arena for fun Tournament of Roses photo opportunities, including holding the football championship trophy and a bouquet of roses.

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Southern California eateries include Pasadena’s newest Crack Shack. There are over 20 wine and craft beer tastings from some of California finest. , viewings of Rose Parade float decorating and kid-friendly activities with Pasadena’s Kidspace Children’s Museum.

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Musical entertainment includes Adelaide, Chris Anderson, Dan Methe and the Swing Cats, Hard Day’s Night, Mariachi Divas and Upstream. Tickets start at $15. For information and tickets, visit Tournament of Roses or sipandsavorpasadena.com

Dec. 31, 2018 – NYE in Pasadena is one of the most liveliest times of the year. Go back to the float decorating pavilion in the late afternoon to see the Tournament of Roses officials judge the floats. The engines are revved and they roll out each enormous float onto the road to make their journey to Orange Grove. This is also a fun spot to preview the completed floats that are waiting in line for millions of people to see on Jan. 1, 2019 at 8 a.m.

Rose Parade – January 1, 2019 – It’s been a tradition for 130 years to wake up early to watch the winning floats make their way along a 5.25 mile route along Colorado Blvd. Find a spot along the route to watch for FREE or you can purchase seats in the stands (877)793-9911.

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Afterwards, on January 1, 2019 locals and visitors have lunch and watch the Rose Bowl Football Game. This year Ohio State is playing Washington. For tickets go to http://tournamentofroses.com.

Jan.1 and Jan. 2, 2019 – Post Parade Float Viewing – Get close to be amazed as you are close enough to see and smell the floral masterpieces exhibited along Sierra Madre and Washington Blvd.

Pasadena Cheeseburger Week – Starting January 6-11 come try some of the finest cheeseburgers in Southern California. Legends have been told that the savory sandwich was created in Pasadena in the 1920s. In 2019 there are 40 restaurants Pasadena grilling up their signature burgers, some special creations, as well a and a deals  during Pasadena Cheeseburger Week.Some, such as El Portal, Dog Haus and Dog Haus Biergarten offer specially created burgers for Cheeseburger Week. New this year, are 1919 Cafe at the Huntington Library, Art Galleries and Botanical Garden and Trejo’s Tacos.

Jill’s Top 10 Travel Destination to Visit in 2019

This year I visited over 20 luxury resorts and wrote about my adventures for JustLuxe, LuxeBeat and Go World Travel. Some of the standout travel destinations, hotels and resorts include luxury spa experiences, outstanding restaurants, tennis courts, golf courses and enriching experiences that include cooking classes, wine tasting and morning yoga. 

Here’s a list of my favorites in 2018 that I would happily return to in 2019:

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1. Luxe Spa in AvalonJustLuxe. Located on Catalina Island , The Island Spa offers ocean theme treatments, products and experiences. There is a day-long yoga and kayaking adventure. Guests meet at the spa and walk to Descanso Beach to enjoy a 1.5-hour paddle tour to coves and headlands along Catalina’s dramatic coast. Participants paddle through giant kelp forests teeming with sea life, and may see dolphins, seals, pelicans, and plenty of bright orange Garibaldi fish. After the paddle and lunch, attendees take a personalized yoga class at Island Spa Catalina, and dip in the heated pool before returning to one of the island hotels or take a boat ride back to Long Beach.

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2. Washington DC New Neighborhood – Luxe Beat Magazine. The new InterContinental Washington D.C., located in the newly repurposed The Wharf area along the Potomac River is a 12-story waterfront hotel offering 278 guest rooms with 33 suites. One suite is a two-story Presidential penthouse, just below the rooftop bar and sparkling pool with views of the riverfront, Jefferson Memorial and beyond.

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3. Living like a Queen in WaikikiJustLuxe. This historic hotel near Waikiki Beach recently completed $35 million dollars in renovations. With the help of Hawaiian designer Mary Philpotts of Philpotts Interiors, the hotel is now filled with Hawaiian colors, local art, comfortable furniture and engaging public spaces. It’s modern, hip and a trendy vacation destination. The staff host Hawaiian experiences for guests that include fitness surfing and yoga classes in the morning, daily Kona coffee tastings, fun interactive wellness workshops, and craft cocktail and live music in the evening.

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4. The Ultimate Wedding Destination in Oahu – JustLuxe. The historically inspired Hawaiian Four Seasons chapel built in the center of the resort provides intimate wedding ceremonies next to beautiful stained glass windows. Doors open out to the tropical gardens for cocktails and pu-pu platters. Weddings can also be held next door at the historic Lanikuhunoa Cultural Estate.

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5. Hawaii’s Immersive Spa ExperienceJust Luxe The 23,000 sq. ft., Laniwai Spa at the Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa provides guests with Hawaii’s wellness traditions. Laniwai in Hawaiian means freshwater heaven, and the crystal raindrop chandelier and soothing cloud lights transport guests to a new realm of relaxation. There is a hue of colors symbolizing the gifts of nature that join together to create a rainbow. These organic and natural Hawaiian treatments rejuvenation and renew spa guests.

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6. The Best in Baja CaliforniaLuxe Beat Magazine Alaskan Airlines flies directly to Loreto on Thursdays and Sunday from LAX, once you arrive at the Villa del Palmar overlooking Danzante Bay and Isla Danzante, the exclusive all-suite guest rooms provide ocean, golf course and the Gigantic Sierra Mountain views. Activities include paddle boarding and kayaking in the protected bay, golf, tennis, spa and hiking excursions to see the ancient painted caves.

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7. Leisure Elegance in Santa BarbaraJust Luxe. Driving up to the Mission-style Hilton Santa Barbara along the American Riviera with swaying palm trees, miles of sandy beaches, a lively wharf and glorious mountain views, this elegant pet-friendly resort offers modern comforts after a multi-million dollar renovation.

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8. Newport Beach’s Newest Luxury HotelLuxe Beat Magazine Upstairs on the fourth floor is the only rooftop bar and lounge in Newport Beach called Topside Roof Deck. Guests taking the elevator up to the top are welcomed to spectacular sunset views. Since the day it opened, this sophisticated and celebration-worthy resort offers a heated pool, farm to table dining, bicycles and family suites.

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9. Napa’s Newest Wine Country ResortsJust Luxe. The newly refreshed Vintage House lobby lounge and rooms are the quintessential wine-style country living. A complimentary breakfast is offered in this room from 7 to 11 a.m. In the evenings, both properties offer a complimentary wine tasting in their lobby each Friday and Saturday evening from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. The large, heated pool and 103-degree whirlpool are framed in outdoor cabanas and chaise lounge chairs with thick pads. A highlight to each room is a hanging wicker basket swing to sit and swirl a glass of wine.

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10. Indulge at La Quinta Resort & Spahttp://www.justluxe.com/travel/spa/feature-1967158.php. About thirty minutes from downtown Palm Spring is a celebrity hideaway in the town of La Quinta. Built in 1926. It became a retreat and playground for Hollywood’s biggest names, U.S. Presidents Taft and some of the wealthiest families in America. Many of the historic casitas, suites, villas and vacation units are surrounded by green lawns, flower gardens or clustered around one of the 41 pools and 53 hot tubs.

Recharge your senses at one or more of these award-winning resorts.

Christmas Dining & Delights in Los Angeles

Enjoy a festive and hassle-free Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas Day meal prepared by talented chefs throughout Los Angeles. Instead of spending the holidays shopping, chopping, cooking and cleaning – dine with friends and loved ones at the following Los Angeles culinary destinations: Learn more by clicking here https://www.gpsmycity.com/gps-tour-guides/los-angeles-631.html.

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BEVERLY HILLS:

Mr. C Beverly Hills Christmas Eve special dinner

Celebrate the night before Christmas with a decadent Italian four-course dinner starting at 6 p.m. Executive chef Giuseppe Manco will prepare an array of dishes including a trio of marinated Norwegian smoked salmon, shrimp and tuna tartare, and beef tenderloin with porcini sauce. This festive four-courses dinner offers wine pairings. 1224 Beverwil Drive, Los Angeles, (310)277-2800.

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Christmas Day brunch and dinner

Circa 55 offers a Beverly Hills-style Christmas brunch buffet with an omelet station, assorted breakfast pastries, prime rib, roasted turkey and roasted kabocha salad. Chef Thomas Henzi’s special holiday meal includes bottomless mimosas for adults. The Christmas dinner includes wild-caught salmon, fresh oysters, prime rib and hand-crafted Christmas pies. Brunch is offered from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and dinner is from 5 to 10 p.m. 9876 Wilshire Blvd. (310)274-7777.

The Peninsula Beverly Hills’ holiday dinner

Enjoy the magic of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at The Belvedere with a three-course meal served family-style. During Christmas Eve, the menu includes lobster bisque, seared scallops, 28-day dry-aged prime rib and a yule log. This menu is vailable from 5 to 10:30 p.m. On Christmas Day, enjoy free-flowing Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne with parsnip and pear soup, beet carpaccio, turkey with sage stuffing, and a selection of contemporary and classic desserts from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. 9882 S. Santa Monica Blvd., (310)551-2888.

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BRENTWOOD:

Christmas Eve at Toscana

Chef Hugo Vasquez prepares elegant Italian holiday dishes for Christmas Eve including white truffle risotto and asparagus. Other delectables include a braised duck leg, turbot puttanesca al cartoccio, Diver scallops, and fresh ricotta ravioli with tomato concassé and brown butter. Wine director Roberto Facciolla pairs each dish with a choice of premium wines. Next door, Bar Toscana celebrates the holidays with a more casual dinner featuring Kumomoto oysters, poached lobster Catalana with sweet onion mousse and an Italian cheese platter. 11633 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles, (310)820-2448 and (310)826-0028.

Coral Tree Café Christmas

Throughout December, guests dining at the Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Encino Coral Tree Café will enjoy a festive menu. 11645 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles, (310)979-8733. 225 S. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, (310)553-8733. 17499 Ventura Blvd., Encino, (818)789-8733.

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DOWNTOWN LA:

Enjoy a Tiki-style Christmas Eve

Stop by plant-based Beelman’s for a Tiki Christmas celebration with Tiki drinks. Beelman’s will be closed on Christmas Day. 600 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, (213)622-1022.

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Holiday vegan doughnuts

Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken makes vegan doughnuts in three festive flavors that include vanilla, Nutella, and cinnamon sugar and gingerbread for the holidays. The vanilla is topped with a hot Madagascar vanilla glaze. The gingerbread doughnut is available only in December. A second Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken will be opening in Santa Monica in early 2019. 516 W. Sixth St., Los Angeles, (213)622-7876.

Patina’s Christmas Eve dinner

Toast while enjoying a four or six course dinner. Start off with either the wild Japanese Madai fish or chestnut cavatelli or black truffle acquerello risotto. The second course includes foie gras or Dover sole with fennel, grapes and Brussels sprouts. Main course entrées include Mary’s duck with braised red cabbage, Millbrook Farms venison with root vegetables and binchotan-grilled American wagyu beef. Finish with a choice of three bûche de Noël. The options include chicory, Black Forest and passion fruit white chocolate. 141 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, (213)972-3331.

Hot dog! Spring St. Bar’s Christmas

Step into the downtown Los Angeles’ friendly neighborhood bar and sandwich shop for a whimsical Christmas hot dog bar. Enjoy a hot dog with one of the 26 constantly rotating taps of craft beer and refreshing classic cocktails. The bar is open on Christmas Day from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. 626 S. Spring St., (213)622-5859.

Hotel Figueroa’s Christmas feast

Head to Veranda on Christmas Day and indulge in roast beef, whole roasted duck, roasted root vegetables with caramelized onions, whole roasted red snapper, bluenose bass with red and green mojos, chicories, potato purée and a special Christmas pie. This special menu is $55 per person and reservations are from 3 to 8 p.m. 939 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, (866)734-6018.

NoMad Holiday Spectacular

Now through the end of December, NoMad Hotels hosts a cocktail pop-up with guest bartender Julian Cox every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m. Sip on custom cocktails from bar director Leo Robitschek and guest bartenders. The whimsical menu of festive drinks can be found at the hotel’s Coffee Bar at the corner of Seventh and Olive. 649 S. Olive St., Los Angeles, (213)358-0000.

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Christmas Eve at Nick + Stef’s

Celebrate Christmas Eve with a luxurious steakhouse meal. Executive chef Megan Logan will prepare a celebratory holiday menu featuring an interactive tableside Caesar salad, dry-aged steaks, fresh seafood, Snake River Farms wagyu rib-eye, grass-fed filet mignon, jumbo Maryland lump crab cakes and signature sides. Start with a festive drink and end with one of the beautifully presented desserts. 330 S. Hope St., Los Angeles, (213)680-0330.

HOLLYWOOD:

The Hollywood Roosevelt

Step inside The Hollywood Roosevelt for an eclectic yet relaxed dining experience. The American brasserie Public Kitchen & Bar dinner. Start with savory squash soup or seared Diver scallops. The second course includes roasted moulard duck breast with Japanese sweet potato or einkorn tagliatelle with chanterelle mushrooms and leeks. For a sweet finish, try the deconstructed pumpkin pie or heirloom apple cranberry tart tatin. Children have their own special menu that includes chicken noodle soup, honey-glazed ham, macaroni and cheese, and crunchy praline mousse. 7000 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, (323)769-8888.

Wood & Vine

Wood & Vine offers festive pre and post-theatre meals all year round. Located across from The Pantages Theatre, be sure to enjoy Chef Rick’s hearty pork shank, shrimp and grits, or lighter winter plates that include IMPOSSIBLE meatballs with plant based spaghetti and vegan cheese. Be sure to finish with a slice of Grandma Helen’s chocolate pie. 6280 Hollywood Blvd. (323)334-3360.

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Holiday drinks at Rise-N-Grind Coffee & Juice Bar

Hollywood’s Rise-N-Grind gets into the holiday spirit with festive beverages such as a classic hot chocolate made with dark chocolate syrup, a toasted marshmallow latte with a double shot of espresso, a gingerbread latte topped with whipped cream and a gingerbread cookie, and a peppermint double shot latte with peppermint syrup and choice of milk. 6501 Hollywood Blvd. (323)553-8901.

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MELROSE/FAIRFAX:

Posada at Antonio’s

Antonio’s Restaurant on Melrose celebrates posada, the biblical story of Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem, with a special menu. Try the chicken sweet tamales, pozole featuring pork borth and hominy, or the crunchy cinnamon buñuelos. 7470 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (323)658-9060.

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SANTA MONICA:

Hotel Casa del Mar

Dine near the sand at Hotel Casa del Mar that includes a starter of Iberian ham and manchego cheese foam with crusted tomato and warm bread. Entrées include roasted duck with blueberry sauce and passion fruit glaze, or wagyu beef filet mignon with shaved black truffle. Finish with a warm apple tart and bambucha éclair with hazelnut ice cream. 1910 Ocean Way, Santa Monica, (310)581-7714.

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King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh Extended in Los Angeles

The California Science Center extends the closing date and hours for King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh due to its popularity.

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The exhibition’s closing date is now January 13, 2019. This informative exhibit made its   world premiere in March 2018. Since then more than half a million guests have visited King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh, making it one of the most well-attended special exhibitions in the California Science Center’s history.

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If you haven’t seen King Tut’s treasures, so see it before it leaves the U.S. and travels to the Grande Halle de la Villette in Paris in March 2019. Presented by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, IMG and the California Science Center, the immersive King Tut exhibition is unlike any that have toured previously. With more than 150 real artifacts from Tutankhamun’s tomb, this is the largest King Tut collection ever to tour outside of Egypt, including 60 tomb artifacts making their international debut. Guests learn the role of the burial objects in guiding King Tut on his quest for immortality. They also learn how the cutting-edge tools and scientific analysis of King Tut’s 3,000 year-old mummy reveal new information about his health and lineage.

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Beginning Wednesday, December 26 and continuing through the final day of the exhibition, the last ticket time will be 5 p.m. Ticket holders have 90 minutes after the last ticket time, while all other Science Center exhibits will close at 5 p.m.

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On New Year’s Eve, the last ticket time will be 3:30 p.m. and the exhibition will close at 5 p.m. The Science Center is closed on New Year’s Day.

Be sure to check out the exhibition’s new e-store at www.kingtut.store. The e-store features a selection of the exhibition gift shop’s most popular items for adults and children including the official exhibition catalogue, toys, novelty gifts, clothing and jewelry.

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Online exhibition ticket purchasing at www.californiasciencecenter.org is recommended as tickets are expected to sell out on some days (adults $29.95, children $19.50). Discounts are available for members, children, students, seniors and groups. Groups of 15 or more may inquire about group reservations by calling 213-744-2019.

For more information, visit www.californiasciencecenter.org or www.kingtutexhibition.com. Discover more at Facebook.com/KingTutTour, @KingTutTour on Twitter and @KingTutTour on Instagram.

 

Barcari W. 3rd in Beverly Grove

When the Greek restaurant Sofi closed, I hoped another restauranteur would take over the space at this hidden gem in Los Angeles. Recently I learned the Bacari Restaurant Group took over the space and opened Bacari W. 3rd.

I’ve been to the Bacari GDL at Caruso’s Americana at Brand in Glendale. It’s a Venetian-inspired Cicchetti- style eatery offering a menu with sharable plates, pastas, pizza and salads, similar to a traditional Bacari in Venice, Italy.

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Now along one of the most celebrated streets offering many popular restaurants in Los Angeles, is a new Bacari. Walking through the brick archway tunnel, I noticed metal mailboxes with painted wine bottles and glass of wine. Bacari is painted on one of the mail doors. There is a beautiful iron gate with a bright blue Mediterranean ceramic pot and distressed wood doors with metal knockers. It’s pushed open to welcome diners into a garden patio with a historic tree and massive Bougainvillea dropping magenta colored flowers onto tables. Most of the seating is out on this patio, though there is a rustic, low-ceiling interior dining space with exposed wood beams.

The day I dined, this area was being decorated for birthday bash, so all the seating during brunch was out on the dog-friendly patio. Looking at the menu, this location offers Mediterranean dishes curated by Israeli-born Executive chef Lior Hillel and Executive Sous Chef Kevin Corona. IMG_4502

It’s already become a popular brunch spot on weekends from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., offering creative shareable items. We started with a smoked salmon pita served in a metal taco holder. The fresh pita pocket is stuffed with pickled red onions, capers, ribbons of thin smoked salmon and cucumber. It’s served with a pleasing dill and garlic creme fraiche, similar to a tzatziki sauce. Only one comes per order, so order one per diner, because this is hard to share.

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The avocado toast is beautifully presented with a chunky avocado spread, and pink and white watermelon radish triangles artistically arranged on top. What makes this toast different is the pleasing, dense house-baked superfood bread. The texture of this gluten-free toast is porous and nutty, ideal to hold the creamy green goodness. There is a drizzle of Mediterranean olive oil and speckle of gray salt to round out the flavors.

Almost every table had people sipping bottomless mimosas, sangria, sparkling sangria or house prosecco. Guests have the option to switch it up with each course for $25.

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I didn’t care about the thin, panko-crust crab cake Benedict, however I did find hollandaise sauce with a zest of grapefruit appealing.

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We found the free range egg pizza different than expected. The crust was thin and topped with savory fromage blanc, caramelized onions and a softly cooked egg. Finishing on a sweeter note, we ordered the gluten-free baby Dutch pancake presented in a small black cast iron skillet. The bottom of the pancake was caramelized and slightly crunchy, while the top was warm and soft with fresh red and purple berries and a lovely Mission fig and honey compote in the center. 

Next to us, a couple were devouring Bacari fries with a special sauce and fried egg on top, along with a Croque Madame and open-face Bacari burger.

Next time you are searching for a new brunch and dinner destination in Beverly Grove, Bacari W. 3rd is a new foodie favorite. Barcai Restaurant Group also has restaurants in Glendale, Playa del Rey, and University Park. $$ Open daily from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., and weekend brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. 8030 3⁄4 W. Third St. (323)452-9149.

This review was featured in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News on Dec. 13, 2018 –

Holiday Sunday Brunch at WP24 by Wolfgang Puck 

For the first time ever WP24 by Wolfgang Puck at The Ritz-Carlton, in Los Angeles at L.A. Live opens its doors to guests and the public for an interactive Sunday brunch. Start with a complimentary lychee mimosa and an array of lovely baked items before you are escorted to your view table.

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Guests are invited into Chef de Cuisine John Lechleidner’s kitchen to watch chef demonstrations and discuss technique with his team at individual Asian stations. “During the holidays, I want guests to visit our home in WP24,” said Chef John.

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Discover the proper way to roll sushi, stir-fry hand-torn noodles and discover how they make Chinese donuts for dessert.

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The Wolfgang Puck’s Peking Duck station allows diners to make their own duck bao bun. There is also an area to prepare congee with scallion, poached shrimp, pork floss, bamboo shoots, chili oils, 10-minute eggs and pickled mustard greens. Another stations offers fresh fruit and salads.

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The smoky Bloody Mary cocktail demo comes with a crystal decanter to refill at your table. Add slices of lemon, lime, olives and celery stalk.

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The special coffee bar offers candy canes, marshmallows, chocolate drops and cinnamon. The triple layer latte is a warm treat.

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On Sunday, December 23 there will be a special visit from Santa in addition to cookie decorating and hot cocoa for kids. Brunch is available for two consecutive seatings each Sunday starting at 11:00 a.m. and the second at 1:00 p.m. It’s priced at $75 per person; $25 for children 12 years and under. The price includes unlimited access to culinary stations, coffee, tea and orange juice. Cocktails are an additional charge. Call (213)743-8800 or go to WP24

Holiday Gift Snacknation Delights

Bring some holiday cheer to your office or home with SnackNation. It’s a snack subscription box filled with healthier snacks to munch on at home, put into school lunches, supply at the office break room or bring to a holiday gathering.
Starting on December 10th, SnackNation is offering two different curations – “Mindful Munchies”  and “All Sweet, No Cheat.”
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For the official launch week 12/10-12/17, Postmates is offering 25% off all SnackNation curations, in addition to free delivery.

West Hollywood residents and office managers can order a subscription through the Pink Dot marketplace. Delivery to West Hollywood residents is within a four mile radius from the Pink Dot location on Sunset Blvd.
Learning about this, I ordered a Mindful Munchies box that arrived yesterday. Inside were an array of sweet and savory items that are healthier and lower in calorie. My favorites include:
  • AG Standard Smoked Almonds
  • Brownie Brittle
  • Smart Sweets Gummy Bears
  • Karma Nuts – Coconut Crunch roasted cashews
  • PopCorners – Sweet and Salty Kettle Corn
  • Boulder Canyon Authentic Foods Malt Vinegar & Sea Salt chips
  • Pretzel Pete mini salted caramel twists
  • DAELMANS Stroopwafel
  • Benitos Nacho Cheese white bean chips
  • RXBAR Peanut Butter Chocolate protein bar
  • Love Corn Smoked BBQ
  • Lenny & Larry’s Chocolate Chip cookies
  • Emmy’s Organic coconut cookie
  • Chef’s Cut Real Jerky Co.
  • Torie & Howard Chewie FruitiesIMG_6714

SnackNation will donate to FEEDING AMERICA for every box a SnackNation member enjoys. PRICING for this box or All Sweet, No Cheat with 25% off 12/10 -12/17 for 4 snacks is $9.99; 8 snacks is $19.99; and 16 snacks is $34.99. Click here to order – SnackNation.

Disney Festival of Holidays Sip and Savor Pass 2018

There are so many fun holiday and seasonal culinary treats at both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park. Just walking through the parks will appeal to all of your senses in the merriment of decorations, colors and gourmet delights available until January 6, 2019.

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It’s a foodie paradise at Disney California Adventure Park, especially when guests purchase a Sip and Savor Pass for $54. Your pass includes a commemorative credential passport with 8 tasting coupons that can be redeemed at a multitude of food and beverage (excluding alcohol) carts located throughout the park.

Annual Disney Passholders get a reduced price, plus special Passholder lanyard and buttons upon passport coupon redemption. Just show your valid Annual Pass and photo ID upon purchase.

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  • A Twist on Tradition offers celebrating Navidad and Christmas delights.
  • Blissfully Braised offers savory items include slow-cooked, savory dishes.IMG_6084
  • Brews & Bites celebrates Navidad and offers a frosty beer tasting flight at an additional fee.
  • Favorite Things are some of the most comforting, yummy dishes.
  • Grandma’s Recipes traditional recipes with a twist, such as warm beef pot roast in a potato bread roll sliced, traditional candied yams that are as good as grandma’s recipe and a gingerbread dessert shaped as Mickey Mouse. This cart offers a tasting flight too.IMG_6127-2
  • Holiday Duets are perfect pairings.
  • Merry Mashups is a fusion of seasonal favorites.
  • Spicy Celebrations celebrates the flavors of Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and Navidad with a touch of heat.IMG_6126-3
  • Visions of Sugarplums offers sweet treats.
  • Winter Sliderland has miniature holiday feasts and sliders for bite-size cravings.
  • Winter Wonders offers cozy dishes to warm your senses.
  • Paradise Garden Grill offers VIVA NAVIDAD dishes such as Vegan Chile Rellenos, Torta al Pastor, Housemade Pozole, Street-style Tacos and Burritos.

The Sip and Savor Pass is available for sale at Festival Merchandise Carts, Seaside Souvenirs (in Paradise Gardens Park), Holidays Central (near The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure), Kingswell Camera Shop and Rushin’ River Outfitters until January 8, 2019 during Disney Festival of Holidays. Items may also be purchased a la carte.

Entertainment throughout the park includes the Mariachi Divas, Phat Cat Swingers, Disney Viva Navidad!, Blue-3 Dance Company, The Sound and Mostly Kosher. Be sure to see the mischievous Holiday Toy Drummers march to their own merry beat.

 

29 Rooms of Immersive Fun in DTLA

It was an ideal day to be indoors with the rain storm in Southern California. My daughter and I played inside Refinery29’s Immersive World of Creativity & Cultural. It’s a pop-up exhibit inside The Reef.

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Refinery29 is a digital-media and entertainment company for young women with an audience of over 550 million across all platforms. Participants step away from downtown LA and into a dream world created by the makers behind Refinery29. They have collaborated with visionaries and brands in the fields of arts, activism, style, and technology to build 29 uniques spaces that are relevant today and promote hope for tomorrow. Through multi-sensory installations, performances, and workshops, participants keep an  open mind, while exhibiting a playful spirit, while playing in an artistic wonderland.

Some of my favorite experiences include Rooms 3 & 4 – Sonic Sanctuary & Sonic Shadow – 

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In Light of You was a collaboration with Jose’ A. Roda where guests bathe in light illuminating individuality.

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Hello Beautiful is in partnership with BIRCHBOX at Walgreens. Guests can apply makeup and even get a liquid glittery eyeshadow.

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Room 6 was one of my favorites- Blind Date with Destiny. Learn about your life line, head line, heart line and relationship line in an unexpected way.

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Room 10 Know! Your! Rights! is a collaboration with the ACLU.

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Room 11 Star Matter in collaboration with Nicole Richie allows guests to step inside orbit with one another and don a starry cape.

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In Room 14 Money Mantras is in collaboration with Refinery29’s Money Diaries offering valuable tips and advice on how to get rich and afford life in the meantime.

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Room 15 is The Value Stand in collaboration with The R29 Editorial Design Team that shows when women work together, the result is strong, stunning and carries a compelling message.

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There are two different ticket types and prices:

General Admission ticket is $39.99 for three hours of exploring, plus, a portion of all ticket proceeds go to s nonprofit partner. The 29Rooms Party After Dark ticket is $69.99 for three hours with smaller crowds, so you have more space, 2 drink tickets, with additional cash bar and food for purchase, exclusive pop-up performances, VIP guests and R29 insiders, DJs and dancing, and live art-making. Participants must be 21+

Thursday December 6th

  • 11 a.m.–2 p.m.
  • 3–6 p.m.
  • 7–10 p.m. **Party After Dark**

Friday December 7th

  • 11 a.m.–2 p.m.
  • 3–6 p.m.
  • 7–10 p.m. **Party After Dark**

Saturday December 8th

  • 11 a.m.–2 p.m.
  • 3–6 p.m.
  • 7–10 p.m. **Party After Dark**

Sunday December 9th

  • 11 a.m.–2 p.m.
  • 3–6 p.m.
  • 7–10 p.m.

Buy tickets at Eventbrite –