Year round sunshine, palm trees, Surf City USA and an emerging wine country. Find out why you need to rediscover Southern California from West Hollywood, and Orange County to Temecula.
After success with Cecconi’s in London and New York, owner Enzo Cecconi opened Cecconi’s West Hollywood in 2009, in its prime spot on the corner of Robertson Boulevard and Melrose Avenue.
Smart turquoise seating, Carrara marble, dark wood and a living wall befit the well-heeled crowd that dine here, and though the pristine white tablecloths reflect fine dining, the service remains polished but not stuffy. Handmade pasta, fresh seafood and plenty of wood fired options reflect modern Italian cuisine effortlessly, with bright colour and careful presentation.
The restaurant celebrates Northern Italian tapas, or cicchetti with shareable dishes like avocado and chickpea dip, crudité and zucchini fritti, with zesty lemon aioli. The agnolotti del plin with black truffle is divine, or if you’re in the mood for something different, order the filet Dover sole, served table-side, adding a touch of old school classic service that adds to the charm of dining here.
Walk the Design District
Anchored by the Pacific Design Centre, this design-centric quadrant is worth a stroll. Discover neatly packed high-end furniture showrooms, alongside vintage and designer boutiques. Worth a Stop: The hidden roooftop garden at Resoration hardware, and L’Eclaireur lifestyle boutique carrying pieces from Margiela and Rokh.
Pump it Up
Fans of Vanderpump Rules will instantly recognize Lisa Vanderpump’s eclectic style of over-the-top excess at Pump restaurant. If you’ve ever wondered what a combination of giant olive trees, antique crystal chandeliers, stone fountains, and the sides of a nineteenth century Parisian bridge could look like in the same space, you’ll find them all here in a lively, friendly atmosphere.
The concise menu heavily skews toward Italian, with classics like the chicken Milanese served alongside Vanderpump’s potato salad, and Rigatoni Bolognese made with marinated ground filet mignon.
Get Pampered Like A Rockstar
A litany of musicians, comedians, actors and those in the film industry have made Nightbird studios, just off the Sunset Strip one of the places in Hollywood to be seen and to let loose.
While Miley Cyrus, Rihanna and Elton John have all recorded music on premises at this boutique property, the connection to music is carried through at the spa, with rock star services like the Pipe cleaner, syncopation, and strum.
The London West Hollywood
Showing sophisticated restraint amidst the liveliness of West Hollywood, this all-suite hotel with private balconies, 110 seat screening room and rooftop pool, feels like a private hideaway.
An arched ivy entrance leads into a large, quiet courtyard and marble laden lobby; you would never know that bustling nightclubs like The Viper Room and Roxy are nearby.
Rooms are spacious at 750 sq ft, with private balcony and a muted, soft colour palette of cream, sage green and gold. The oversized bathroom with beautifully intricate inlaid mosaic tile, and double shower are luxurious touches. At Boxwood restaurant look for modern American cuisine, with touches of Italian, and Mexican. A fitness centre, tennis courts and spa are all on site.
In a city known for its love of sushi, where views of the Hollywood Hills are equally prized, this popular spot checks both boxes. Catch LA, the globally influenced restaurant fuses Asian and French techniques and flavours with addictive precision that could easily have you ordering most of the menu.
What’s on the Menu? Signatures like the truffle sashimi with tuna, hamachi, chili oil, ponzu, caviar and hellfire roll with spicy tuna, pear and balsamic are served alongside a dizzying array of mouth watering choices.
Don’t Miss The baked king crab hand rolls with bright orange tobiko, kewpie mayo, shichimi pepper or the insta-fave ‘hit me’ chocolate brownie cake.
Luxe Lovers Rejoice
Eyeing a pair of five-inch handcrafted Italian sandals, Chopard timepiece or elegant Lanvin evening gown for your next cocktail party? South Coast Plaza is a fashionistas dream.
If you have that ‘I want it, I got it’ Ariana Grande attitude, with 250 boutiques, 30 restaurants, Segerstrom Center for the Arts, and concierge service, there are plenty of posh choices to keep you busy.
Grab lunch at TERRACE by Mix Mix, a spinoff off of chef Ross Pangilinan’s popular Filipino fusion restaurant in Santa Ana with highlights like the crisp shrimp lumpia and pork cheek adobo.
Approachable elegance meets modern nautical at the understated Balboa Bay Resort which sits on the waterfront overlooking scenes of sorbet coloured morning skies and crisp white yachts in the marina.
Rooms are simple, anchored by espresso wood platform beds fitted with crisp white Frette linens and accented by shades of blue pillows that echo the surroundings.
Continuing the un-stuffy mantra, A&O (Anchors & Oceans), the hotel’s gastropub delivers a dynamic California distilled cocktail menu, the brainchild of award winning bartender and beverage director Ben Carpenter, featuring all local, Golden State-made spirits and house made cordials from local produce. You can’t go wrong with the refreshing ‘Golden Hour’ , a clever blend of Washed Loch & Union Gin, green apple cordial , black pepper, lemon and blac de blancs brut.
Malibu Farm is one of the few insta-worthy spots that actually lives up to its hipster hype. For brunch, expect millennial faves like açai bowls, alongside twists on California classics like the avocado huarache with jalapeño ricotta spread, and Malibu honey lemon vinaigrette.
Teach Me How To Duffy
Gliding through Newport harbour in a small, electric duffy boat is an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon: get a front row seat of the glamorous multi-million dollar homes on Balboa Island; or, admire the boats sailing the bay.
With its signature scalloped, surrey-covered top (like an awning), the boat is quiet enough to hear the calls of sea birds and an ideal way to peacefully watch the sea lions play in the water.
Dock of the Bay
Waterfront dining meets Italian charisma could be the moniker for this chic Mariner’s Mile restaurant in Newport Beach. Louie’s by the Bay, a collaboration between two legendary restaurateurs and friends, Ron Salisbury and Piero Selvaggio, feels like a neighbourhood spot — which could double as Ralph Lauren’s beach house — that you want everyone to know about.
Warm energy exudes from every corner, a request for a glass of Amarone leads to the exuberant Selvaggio suggesting two of his favourite Italian reds. Chef Antonio Orlando’s plates, like the stuffed Calamari in tomato broth and gnocchi in pomodoro, transport diners directly to Italy.
Toast Of The Town
Craft beer is having a moment and so is made-from-scratch craft food. That’s what you’ll find at Toast in Temecula, serving brunch food, coffee, craft cocktails you want to eat (and drink).
Delectable highlights include the shrimp and grits with Bilbao chorizo, smoked cheddar in creamy grits and sandwiches with fun names like Baby Got Banh Mi and the ‘Live and Let Rye’ Rueben.
Escape To Wine Country
Sitting on your private patio, in front of 109 acres of verdant vineyards, watching hot air balloons carefully take flight, with the backdrop of a fuchsia-creamsicle sky is the idyllic setting at Carter Estate Winery and Resort in Temecula.
Walls painted in dramatic royal blue, a cozy fireplace and marble and granite bath come together nicely in the spacious 533 sq. ft vineyard bungalow room. A spa, wine tasting room and restaurant are also available on site.
Coming up Rosy
An elegant marriage of food and wine come together at The Vineyard Rose, just steps away from South Point winery’s vineyard. Exposed wooden beams, oak barrels and a stone inlay wall evoke the Northern Italian countryside with modern California cuisine showcased in classic preparations like chilled shrimp cocktail, and steak and frites.
If you’ve ever dreamt about being a winemaker, the wine blending lab experience at Bottaia Winery is just about as close as you can get without having years of technical skill or experience.
A blending lab inside the winery’s fermentation building offers a peak at casks and concrete vats as inspiration. Choosing from four wines to create three different blends, participants become amateur wine scientists, using graduated cylinders and pipettes to experiment and come up with their own proprietary blend to suit their palate to take home.
Off To The Mountain
The heart of any winery is its cave — where the liquid gold is aged at the perfect temperature and humidity, deep underground. The subterranean wine caves (a first for Temecula) at Oak Mountain Winery, with neatly stacked rows of oak barrels lining the arched cave, creates a moody atmosphere, perfect for tasting from the portfolio of award winning wines, or as a backdrop for a special event.
Old Town Charm
Old town Temecula with its quaint antique and artisan shops, wooden porches and storefronts emblazoned with stenciled typeface, evoke the golden age of the late 19th century western pioneering town.
As a reminder that you’re still in the Mediterranean climate of southern California, stop by family owned Temecula Olive Oil for a tasting flight of both olive oil (the fresh basil is a favourite) and specialty vinegar.
Old Town Spice and Tea Merchants carries a range of delicately packaged culinary products that would take pride of place in any kitchen, while Temecula Lavender Co. carries an array of sweetly scented bath, body and home goods.
Not far away from old town Temecula, at Sugarplum Farm, you’ll find a one-stop destination of exotic and therapy zoo (try to resist the charm of Odette, the dwarf horse) and chocolate shop, that also sells honey, farm-fresh eggs, and hand-made soap.
CSL Resource Guide: California
This original travel article first appeared in the Summer 2019 issue of City Style and Living Magazine.
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