After our great jaunt to Imanta in Mexico, it was a short hop to Los Angeles (plane and packing tips for little ones to follow in another post). Before we had a baby my husband and I mostly used to stay in Hollywood but nowadays we prefer Santa Monica for all of the beachside entertainment and people watching, not to mention its proximity to Venice, where most of close friends in town live.
We set up camp at the Shangri-la hotel, an Art Deco landmark on Ocean and Arizona that we fell in love with last year for its location, friendly service and boutique, without being too slick, feel. (I am not its only fan; check out this review in The New York Times). This year they had opened Suite 700, a rooftop bar (half enclosed and half outdoors with great views over the city) and gas fire pits to keep you warm on the wraparound terrace. It was the perfect spot for an impromptu get together and was baby-friendly enough for Jacopo to hang out for a while (with French fries and pretty girls as the main distraction) before he headed off to our room with the great babysitter my friend Sarah Robarts set me up with. One of the keys of traveling with an infant is to ask your local friends for childcare recommendations in their town well in advance. It is always nice to know they work for a family you know and often are more reasonable than the services hotels set up.
We have been really struck by how the food scene in Los Angeles -- from food trucks to rising chef stars -- has been evolving these last few years, and this trip only added to that impression. We had one of our best meals of the year at Lazy Ox Canteen in Little Tokyo with our dear foodie friends Shana and John. The restaurant, opened by chef Josef Centeno (formerly of Opus and Manresa) was exactly what a informal but gourmet spot should be. Among the standouts smoked trout conserva with caper and red onion, razor clam a la plancha with white soy, egg scramble with white truffle and brussel sprouts with snow peas and pancetta. Los Angeles magazine just rated the spot the city's best new restaurant and I heartily concur!
The other standout of the trip was Venice's Gjelina during a child-free dinner with great friends Ole and Tonje. I am still dreaming about the roasted beets with burrata, arugula and toasted walnuts, onaga snapper crudo with blood orange, fennel pollen, chili and sea salt and a phenomenal butterscotch pot au crème, all accompanied by a very good Portuguese wine, an Alentejo Riserva.
A few places that Jacopo liked in Santa Monica: the playground just past the pier where you can also watch the acrobats, the pool at the Shangri-la, lunch at Hillstone's, and the second floor of Barnes and Noble on the Promenade, which is full of toys and books.