Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar in Beverly Hills has a hipper swagger than your traditional steakhouse. It has the dim lighting, crisp white table cloths and large booth seating that you expect from a fine dining establishment, but unlike the staid and almost library-like atmosphere of many steakhouses, Fleming’s feels like a party.
This energy could be partially owing to the vivaciousness of the servers, like Tyler, who we figured must be an actor, because his flashy smile was at any moment headshot ready, who took care of me and my dining companion on our last visit, but it is also the general vibe of the place, from the laughter of the well-heeled patrons mingling at the bar to the steady flow of patrons in and out of the restaurant, milling about in the entry, greeting the host and hostess as if they were old friends, maybe they were.
But of course, the ambience and atmosphere are important, but the food is essential, and here is where Fleming’s truly excels. Being a steakhouse, of course I ordered a steak. As a huge fan of the bone-in T-bone, I ordered the one and only size of its variety, the 20-ounce steak, which was a meal fit for a king, or two. Of course, with an Uncle Buck sized steak like this, I figured I would end up boxing up a good portion of it to take home, but it was so juicy and flavorful that I did not leave as much on my plate as I had expected, but still enough for a second excellent meal the next day.
As we had started our meal with the outstanding crabcakes, wading in a puddle of roasted red pepper and lime butter sauce, followed by the Flemings salad of candied walnuts, dried cranberries, tomatoes, onions, herbed crostini, lemon vinaigrette, we did not want to overdo it, and so we only ordered the shoestring potatoes as a side, though we had heard good things about the crispy fried brussels sprouts and the monstrous onion rings, but we will have to wait until next time to order those.
Tyler kept us happy, making sure all our dishes arrived as ordered, hot and fresh. He was not afraid to give his opinion on the best way to have our food prepared, such as recommending having my steak seared on both sides before cooking it to a perfect medium rare, versus broiling it. He also had excellent suggestions regarding wines, and he didn’t judge when I asked for white wine with my steak, and he selected for me a rich and buttery Chardonnay that paired perfectly with the juicy flavor of my steak.
To finish off our most excellent dining adventure, Tyler recommended Fleming’s extraordinary carrot cake. A tall layered slice of this goodness was delivered with a bowl of fresh whipped cream, which we sampled liberally with each bite of this decadently delicious dessert.
Our dinner experience was leisurely, with Tyler pacing the delivery of each course to give us time for conversation and to whet our appetites for the next course. Noticeably, many of the same folks at the bar who were there when we arrived we’re still there when we left.
Despite the festive, jovial atmosphere, full of lively conversation and activity, it did not feel hectic, nor did we feel rushed, even though it was a busy night. Our experience felt more like we were among a gathering of family and old friends.
In Beverly Hills, where the scene can sometimes be, well, scene-y, Fleming’s was a nice respite, where one could be dressed up and enjoy an upscale evening out without the uppity stiffness of some restaurants in town where in the end you are just glad it’s over. Fleming’s is a place where guests want to linger, for the food and drinks, and just because it feels comfortable to be there.
Flemings has 13 locations in California, including a newly opened restaurant in Pasadena.
“What’s old is new again” is a philosophy that one would never imagine apply to technology, but B8ta proves it does. The world is migrating to online commerce, but nostalgic consumers once again crave the brick-and-mortar store experience. Clicking to buy is convenient, but the missing link is a sales person to explain the benefits and features of a product, and the opportunity to see, feel, and test an item before you purchase it.
Today many items consumers would have never dreamed of buying online, such as furniture or prepared meals, are shipped door to door in days; but sometimes there is a disconnect between the consumer and the seller. The savviest of the new commerce entrepreneurs are bridging the old school and the new way of doing business, such as online mattress seller Luxi, which is now developing a complementary program where customers can try out their product in a retail store and then purchase it either in-store or online for the same price.
B8ta has ingeniously harnessed the best the best of both worlds with their pop-up like retail stores where they consign traditionally online only products, such as eero Wi-Fi extenders, Pearl RearVision rearview automobile camera, or Muse brain-sensing mediation headband. The cleanly designed storefronts resemble single-brand showplace stores, such as Apple, Sony or Microsoft store, but of course B8ta sells unlimited brands.
So far the stores are only on the West Coast, naturally having outlets in tech hubs in Northern and Southern California, with outposts in Santa Monica’s “Silcon Beach,” Seattle, Palo Alto, Burbank, Aliso Viejo and Livermore.
Having an actual retail store where consumers can go to handle the merchandise and speak to a knowledgeable sales person can make the difference between browsing and buying. When I recently went into the store in need of a portable battery charger, I was sold on the Flux, which was displayed at B8ta along with approximately 100 other devices, when I was able to see in person how thin the device was, and I was able to hold it in my hand to feel how lightweight it was. No number of YouTube unboxing videos can demo this experience.
B8ta has combined the tactile with the virtual experience of modern shopping with each of the items displayed near a video tablet on which a prospective customer can watch explainer videos. Enthusiastic black-shirted tech geeks stroll the isles eagerly awaiting the opportunity to answer questions about the merchandise.
The customer can also check on specs and other information from the video screen, including a countdown of the number of the product left in inventory.
So whereas some experiences don’t require a personal interaction to make them fulfilling, such as was the case when consumers were able to pump their own gas and never look back at the days of gas station attendants, buying tecnical products has not achieved this status, and signs are it will not, as the success of B8ta is proof positive that a hands-on shopping still has a place in the tech age.
When choosing a restaurant for a special occasion, such as an anniversary, birthday, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, holiday dinner or a family celebration, the ideal venue should be as memorable as the event, a tall order which Las Brisas in Laguna always aims to fulfill for its guests. My second to last visit there was about 10 years ago, and after enjoying a Christmas day family dinner there recently, I wondered why it has been so long.
The drive from Los Angeles to Laguna is about an hour, and like many Angelenos I tend to dine within a 20-minute drive radius, but every so often I will venture further outside my culinary comfort zone, such as to Malibu or Laguna, and that is when I realize why the drive is worth it. As a dining destination, Las Brisas has it all. A spectacular vista of the Pacific coastline, excellent food, superb service, an elegant yet laid-back atmosphere, and a few bonuses, such as a bird’s eye view of surfers and divers who are drawn to the famous seascape, and a warm, friendly atmosphere that can only be cultivated by decades of being a local establishment beloved by its neighbors.
The legendary restaurant was built in 1938 as the Victor Hugo Inn, a world-class restaurant and celebrity getaway, and it became Las Brisas in 1979, a first-class sea-to-table culinary destination attracting both locals and visitors of discriminating tastes.
The menu features an infusion of the best of Californian cuisine with authentic Mexican recipes of rich, sweet, sour and spicy flavors, such as the Shrimp, Tampiqueños an entree of Spicy wild Mexican prawns sautéed with shiitake mushrooms, Chardonnay and garlic. Traditional Mexican dishes are given a modern twist, such as Caleta, a savory seafood enchilada with skirt steak or the choice of free-range chicken or grilled fish soft taco; or La Asada, a Chipotle-citrus marinated natural skirt steak with a chicken enchilada.
For our holiday dinner, the fare was more continental and limited, with a fixed menu offering including beet salad, butternut squash soup, chops, steaks, scallops, seabass and of course, surf and turf; and for desert a seasonal eggnog crème brulee or apple cinnamon tart. Despite the fact the restaurant was packed on Christmas night, with diners overflowing onto the patio, where they were warmed comfortably by the glowing flames from glass tower heaters, and guests were brimming out front door on one of winter’s chilliest nights, the maître d seated the waiting guests swiftly and efficiently.
Likewise, the service was meticulously organized, with hot plates being delivered within a few minutes of ordering, and my medium rare filet was cooked exactly right and the perfect temperature. We were amazed at how our uber-efficient server juggled the at-capacity crowd with aplomb, answering our questions about the menu, chatting with guests about the holidays, and taking the time to help us select a wine to pair with our entrees. I half expected him to start spinning plates on a pole.
One large group that was being seated next to us began to grumble about having a chair placed on the end of the table for an extra guest, so without any discussion the server quickly conferred with the host who obliged the group with a larger table by a window, very much met to their liking.
This is the attitude of “aiming to please” which has made the restaurant a favorite for those occasions when patrons desire impeccable service that makes them feel special. For the holidays, the restaurant decorated its dining rooms with festive lights, Christmas trees, candles and orchids adorned with holly berries for the season, but the centerpiece for guests of all ages was a giant aquarium that resides in the foyer, which perpetually has small children gathered around, gazing at the brilliant coral and sea life.
The aquarium is a dependable mainstay, like the restaurant, and no matter the fact it has stood for 38 years in the same place, it is always dynamic and exciting, well worth the trek out of LA to find an experience you can’t have sitting on a city sidewalk.
Love those “in” and “out” lists for the New Year? Here’s one from CARE.COM , with their predictions for parenting and workplace trends for 2017.
1.Grit-Style Parenting – Say goodbye to participation trophies, and hello to teaching kids some grit. Recent studies have shown that the characteristic of grit is the key to happiness and success, and in a world that increasingly values entrepreneurship and the failure that may come along with it, parents are letting their children figure things out on their own and even fail. By teaching children not to quit at the first sign of a setback, parents are showing children how to be resilient, autonomous and that persistence pays off whether there’s a trophy or not.
2.The Minimalist Parent – The minimalist movement that was sparked by Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has trickled down to parenting. In lieu of all the “stuff” that children quickly grow out of and tired of, parents are electing for a more pared-down lifestyle for the entire family. These minimalist parents of 2017 are eschewing the multitude of toys, clothes and art projects that come with the parenting territory and only saving items that spark joy, while selling or donating the rest to local charities or parent groups like the ones found on BigTent.com. When it comes to activities, reexamining their children’s schedule and eliminating any sports or lessons they don’t truly enjoy is also on the minimalist parent’s agenda.
3.Post-Gender Parenting – From an increase in unisex names in the last decade and the movement to ban the word “bossy” for girls to the elimination of gender toy segregation by mass market retailers and the call for gender-neutral graduation gowns, gender neutrality is being welcomed by a new generation of parents. These post-gender parents are challenging gender stereotypes in an effort to raise their children in an environment where they aren’t confined to the pressure of gender bias and where kids can simply be kids…whether that means learning how to code, to play rugby or to take ballet. This cultural shift means that children have more choices than ever before, and what parent doesn’t want that for their child?
4.Truly Flexible Workplace Programs – There’s no question about it. 2016 was the year about paid parental leave. While companies will continue to engage in a parental leave arms race, Care@Work, the enterprise arm helping companies support their working families, predicts leading employers will also take on expanding the notion of flex time for 2017. According to a Care@Work Better Benefits Survey, 17% of people would likely leave their job for one that offered a flexible work schedule. But beyond offering flexibility in working hours, companies are recognizing that true flexibility for America’s diverse workforce means many different things. Whether it’s a reduced work week à la Amazon.com’s 30-hour work week pilot program, job-sharing opportunities, or the ability to work from home several days a week to avoid long commutes or for no reason at all, the traditional, full-time schedule in an office is no longer a “one size fits all” model for today’s workforce. Most importantly, leading organizations who are committed to true flexibility are actively encouraging the use of these workplace programs to help mitigate commonly-held fears of being professionally penalized for actually taking them.
Two years after it has been established on Larchmont Boulevard, Salt and Straw is still blowing up the sidewalk every night of the week. Even on a Tuesday night at 10 PM, there is a line out the door and 20 people long outside the ice cream shop. In a town where indie shops come and go in a blink of an eye, it is a testament to Salt and Straw’s superior product and a bit of marketing prowess that it is still immensely popular.
Now with several locations throughout Los Angeles, including Studio City, Venice Beach, the Arts District downtown, and a new location opening in West Hollywood, the ice cream shop draws a steady stream of crowds who crave its signature savory flavor of sea salt with caramel ribbons, almond brittle with salted ganache, double folded vanilla, and chocolate gooey brownie and the adventure of enjoying samples of its out-of-the-carton flavors such as black olive and goat cheese brittle, freckled woodblock chocolate, avocado and strawberry sherbet, honey lavender, Silencio black tea and coconut strawberry Stracciatella.
Tiffany, the manager at the Larchmont store, graciously explains the many flavors to guests, unfrazzled by the lines pouring in the door, she maintains a smile and pleasant demeanor as she efficiently multitasks, ringing up customers and scooping out samples, setting up a tasting flight of four flavors, and giving newbies a 101 lesson in Salt and Straw’s secret sauce, so to speak, which is sourcing its fine ingredients from local purveyors with the best local, organic and sustainable ingredients, and hand making their ice cream in small batches, adding imported flavors from small hand-picked farms from around the world, and changing up its seasonal menu to delight the tastes of its customers.
Most customers prefer their scoops in cups, though those who splurge for a dollar more can have their scoop served up in a house-made waffle cone that is to-die for. For those who want to be truly indulgent, their cones can be slathered with whip cream. For those who can’t get enough, hand packed pints are available for takeout.
If you don’t want to wait in line, head for the shop earlier in the evening, before 8 PM, which in Larchmont Village is about the time diners finish eating at the local restaurants and go for a delectable dessert. The shop is small but easy to find. Just follow the trail of people walking down the street with the red and white cups in their hands, cooing about the incredibly good taste of the ice cream they are eating.
I was an avid mountain biker in my early 30s, and once again I have taken up the sport, more than a decade later, to find that lots has changed. The trails and techniques have not changed much, but I have. Luckily, mountain bikes have changed too, and newer models are much more suited for people at various stages of life and skill levels.
The Mongoose Switchback Sport ($399) women’s mountain bike is a great bike for a new or returning mountain biker. The Switchback is tall, with its 27.5-inch wheelbase and a raised handlebar stem, and it allows me to sit high and upright. As I have gotten a little older, my neck and back sometimes feel stiff and painful, so this more erect posture is exceedingly more comfortable than the hunched-over downward-facing position of older mountain bikes.
The front suspension fork absorbs shock and offers a lower-impact ride than a fixed fork, so again, for an older body, this is more comfortable. The fork features a lockout knob, so that if you are on a paved surface and you don’t require the benefits of suspension, you can change over the fork so that it performs like a fixed fork, which offers a less laborious ride.
The pedals on this bike feature standard platform pedals. When I was a more aggressive mountain biker, I used clipless pedals, which required me to have special shoes with clips, and when clicked into the pedals, my pedal stroke was more efficient. For serious riders, clipless pedals are a must, but for a weekend rider like myself, the platform pedals are more suitable. As I am out of practice with the clipless pedals, the platforms gave me less anxiety. There is nothing worse than not being able to clip out of your pedals in time when you stop, and tipping over like a bad scene from Laugh In.
As this bike is tall, I appreciated the girls’ style lower top tube. While in my younger days I would easily swing my leg over the seat, now I am glad to be able to have the option of stepping through the bike to mount it.
One thing that will take some adjustment for me is the width of the handlebars. Because of the gears and their positioning on the handlebars, I am not able to place my hands close together. At first I felt like my grip was too wide, but I am getting use to this stance.
The aluminum frame keeps the bike lightweight, which is not only good for quick riding on the trails, it makes it easier for me to lift to put on a bike rack on the back of my car or to hang on a rack in my garage. It’s the small things that are important! One non-standard component that I will add to this bike is a kickstand. I’m aware that true mountain bikers do not have kickstands on their bikes, as it could be dangerous if it snags on roots, rocks or other obstacles on the trail, and it also adds a minuscule amount of weight to the bike, but I prefer the convenience of a kickstand to leaning my bike against a pole or a tree, or having to lay it on the ground.
The components on this bike are high-end for the price point. The Shimano Tourney 3_7 drivetrain with Shimano EZ-Fire shifters make shifting smooth and easy, and the mechanic disc brakes with 160 mm rotors are responsive without seizing up. At around $399, this is a great entry-point hardtail bike for a rider who wants the bells and whistles of a specialized bike but who is not yet willing to invest in a bike costing upwards of $1,500 for features like rear suspension. If I continue riding and want to become more competitive, I can always upgrade this bike, or trade up to a more advanced model.
For my weekend jaunts on and off single-track and paved trails, the Switchback is ideal. It is a serious enough bike, loaded with high quality Shimao and Xposure components, that I am not embarrassed riding among avid cyclists on the popular local trails, whereas on my comfort bike I felt a little like an oddball. It has performance features that make it enjoyable to ride but not too high maintenance for someone like myself who just wants to have a great time and not make a career of tinkering with my bike. This particular Mongoose model is among the higher end of the brand’s offerings. Mongoose also makes less expensive models, though for anyone who wants to get carefree, long use out of their equipment, I recommend going with one of their upper-end models. It might be another $100 to $300 to buy the better bike, but in the end you will get your money’s worth.
While certainly the hardware of mountain biking is the most significant investment, the apparel you wear while will riding can make your experience much better. Biking apparel today is nearly as technical as bikes themselves. The high tech fabrics have evolved and to provide more efficient wicking of perspiration to keep you comfortable when you work up a sweat, and they have features that allow you to adapt them as you progress in your ride or the weather or riding condition changes.
Sugoi, a brand that was forged in British Columbia, Canada, is designed to give you all optimal comfort and performance no matter what the weather. They make a great all-around Coast Hoode ($120), featuring a Aero fleece fabric that is a bonded knit with DWR, so that it protects against wind and water. It’s lined with a dry active jersey fabric to keep you warm, and it has two hand pockets for when you’re off the bike, and an inside pocket perfect for a cell phone or wallet. The collar features a media management system so you can secure headphone cords. When wearing this jacket, it is clear it was designed by true bikers, who thought of everything.
For early fall riding were days when it is less cool, the Coast Long Sleeve shirt ($65) is a great option. It also has great styling, so if you slip into a café on a rest break, you’ll fit right in and not look like your necessarily wearing a bike jersey.
For safety, Sugoi also makes an excellent reflective Zap Training jacket that makes you stand out like a radioactive rider when headlights hit you, if you ride after dark.
As I is a have always been a believer in dressing for success, it is my philosophy that if you have the right gear and clothing, you will perform better, and you will get the most out of your ride, whether that it is pleasure or trying to meet a training goal. When you feel comfortable on your bike and in your riding clothes, and you feel confident about your equipment, you can focus on your ride and getting the most benefit from it. As I gear up to get back into mountain biking, and now I have a nine-year-old son to keep up with, I am thrilled to be back in the saddle, and I am ready to roll.