Author Archives: Nikki Ganz

Taverna Tony is Mykonos in Malibu

Skip the 16 hour flight, because Malibu’s got the beach and Taverna Tony is the perfect Greek escape. Complete with host Tony, this home-style experience feels like a pampered invite into a hillside Mykonian kitcPicture 93hen. Taverna Tony is the local secret loved by celebs, including Sienna Miller, Jessica Alba, Jerry Bruckheimer and Salma Hayek. It’s located in the trendy Malibu Country Mart where high-end shopping and dining are a common beach detour.

If feeling romantic sit outside on the exotic garden patio, or for a little more spice enjoy the live music and belly dancer inside. The perfect stop for a post beach party, bring friends because portions are plentiful and the menu needs lots of sampling. For a pair of dips, Taramosalata is a wonderful salty compliment to the earthy eggplant Melintzanosalata. Spanakopita or Tiropita are musts, because everyone loves a little fluffy filo. And Moussaka enthusiasts, this one is not to be missed.

The Grove: Mall-ing Cali Style

Picture 92West Hollywood’s Grove kicks the regular American mall experience’s butt. Stores vary little, but here it is all about the extras and Disney-esque outdoor shopping. Water in the main fountain dances, as made famous in the blockbuster I Love You Man, and a Green Grove Trolley drives through the mall’s cobbled walkways. It’s also always good for celeb spotting and the occasional Jonas Brothers concert. If opting for a teeny-bopper day, prepare for the included screaming girl stampede.

Big brand favorites reign at the Grove. Nordstrom and the Grove Movie Theater are central for staples like Anthropologie, Sephora, Crate & Barrel, Barnes & Noble, Apple, J Crew, Kiehls, Gap, Michael Kors, and more. Restaurants are familiar chains of upscale mall fare, like The Farm of Beverly Hills and The Cheesecake Factory, but California air and fountain entertainment majorly up the décor. Or for a little more local flavor, try LA’s famed Farmer’s Market adjacent to the Grove.

The Mint has the Music Industry IN

Outside, The Mint looks like just another hole-in-the-wall dive bar. Picture 94The street is a random stretch of nothing, but this understatement of a venue showcases major talent. At The Mint, the show is often worth going out of the way for. Performers range from the music industry’s breaking talent to unknowns soon to be knowable. Past notables include Natalie Cole, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Macy Gray, The Wallflowers, Jason Mraz and Ben Harper to breaking new artists like Matt Morris, new to Justin Timberlake’s label.

The Mint dates back to 1937, with a historical feel as authentic as its history. Its private back room party charm is retro with wooden walls that seep the old notes they have retained. Yet, the intoxication heightens listening to music in this dim room with golden lanterns and old leather banquets. Shows are primarily standing room, and packed.

Abbot Kinney for Everything Venice Beach

Abbot Kinney Boulevard makes high end shopping beach chic in Picture 35Venice Beach. The boutiques rule in Venice and big name brands are out, but don’t be fooled, style is less flip-flop mess and more artist casual. Here you can pick up summer dress ups and dress downs, a new favorite flannel at Steven Alan Annex, or dress your man in Stronghold jeans. Jewelry finds are always a little offbeat ranging from diamonds to antique typewriter keys. For home décor fanatics, Abbot Kinney shops like Floral and Plantation are frequent features in top design magazines.

And for those who work up an appetite from carrying around all those bags, Abbot Kinney has plenty of food options to finish off a successful day, but dining  is anything but beachy. Options are fine and plentiful for any craving from Gjelina’s truffle pizza, Wabi-Sabi crazy rolls and Lilly’s French flavors to Hal’s famous cantaloupe martini. If hunger still strikes, LA’s most notable food trucks usually wander Abbot Kinney late night.

Insider’s Tip: This is not to miss! First Friday of each month is where you can shop late, sample every truck in town and party the packed street all night.

Santa Monica Retreats at The Fairmont Miramar Hotel

Move over Canyon Ranch, The Fairmont Miramar Hotel is Santa Monica’s answer to a mind and body retreat without going anywhere! The luxury hotel’s escapist, private feel is obvious by just driving into the enclosed grounds. World renown Exhale Spa offers premium body toning in Core Fusion classes. For post class unwinding, opt for MIR186_MiscellaneousExhale signature spa treatments like the TRUE Facial and Fusion Massage. Poolside bungalows are a tanning treat with tasty snacks prepared downstairs by FIG Restaurant chefs, who have made a name for themselves by escalating fresh California flavor into upscale dining with the serenity of an outdoor garden and waterfall.

The Fairmont Miramar Hotel is also prime Los Angeles beach locale: walking distance to the Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica Beach, 3rd Street Promenade and only a short drive to Main Street, Malibu and Venice. Rooms with an ocean view are worth the splurge, but either way the sinkable bed is hard to leave at The Fairmont Miramar.

Paradise Spa Escape at Four Seasons Westlake Village

For the ultimate spa day getaway The Four Seasons Spa in Picture 12Westlake Village is incredible. Just one spa treatment grants an all access pass to paradise.

For the perfect day, massages are just the beginning. Dive deeper into the zen with a stroll through the gardens, greenhouse, Asian inspired gazebo and koi pond. There’s no need to ditch the plush robe for uncomfortable day clothes as the spa has a private pool just for patrons. For lunch, enjoy smoothies and sandwiches served poolside, while catching up on your perfect LA tan or relaxing in the robe. The meals are deliciously upscale spa-y health food that leaves you satisfied, and not famished. Cap the day with a steam, sauna, and whirlpool dip before showering and heading home. Returning to reality is hard, but this relaxed rejuvenation is truly hard to forget.

Insider’s Tip: Book treatments when traffic is in your favor because it’s a 40 minute drive out of the city, but book early enough to maximize the day there.

The Elephant Theater: Big Drama, Little Space

Hollywood is Movieland, where the screen reigns. But this city that’s full of artists needs an outlet for exploring its craft. Here comes The Elephant Theater Company, celebrating its 15th season, that offers the highest quality theater with an “off-broadway” intimacy.

Familiar or fresh, Picture 2the faces in this company are known on Theater Row and are bound for the silver screen. Original plays are common, with writers ranging from TV Network regulars and seasoned Elephant playwrights like Timothy McNeil to New York City’s critically-acclaimed off-Broadway theater company, LAByrinth. Key players around town, like casting director Chris Game, can also be seen showing their full range of artistry. Plays cover the full comedy to drama spectrum and subjects are equally up for grabs. The annual one act series of relationship oddities, Love Bites, is hilarious.

At the Elephant Theater, the work reigns and specificity makes beautiful comedy. The highly respected industry mag Backstage West awarded it “Favorite Theater Company to See.”  In addition, The Elephant has won numerous honors from LAWeekly and countless others for exceptional direction by artistic director, David Fofi. What’s playing always changes, so to spark interest the roster is worth a peek.

Crazy at Coco de Ville

Coco de Ville at STK standardizes swanky in the Picture 16Hollywood scene. Coco adheres to the strictest form of nightclub etiquette on par with its top sister clubs- like NYC’s Tenjune and Kiss & Fly- across the country under The ONE Group umbrella. Bottle service or promoters, it is best to have a card to play at the door. Dress to impress is like a key in the lock, and makes people watching inside so much fun.

Coco boasts an eclectic mix of pattern and color, but half a bottle in and that couch is just another thing for glamazons to dance on. Privacy is never really private. DJs pump music hits and innovative mixes, exploding the dance floor to any available surface…laps included. For those that eat, the STK kitchen caters the party from next door. Celeb spotting here is more in the B-C range, but the party reigns at Coco de Ville and tons of bottles flow in every banquet. Most entertaining, however, are the messes and HOT they are.

Robertson: A Trend to Do and Take Home

Move over Rodeo Drive, whether preparing to be seen or shopping the scene, Robertson is the place. Here, find every look from trendy high fashion to casual daily staples that stand out… as well as plenty of paparazzi catching a glimpse of today’s hottest stars.

It’s easy to kill a day on the few Robertson blocks between Beverly and 3rd Street. Start with lunch at The Ivy or Newsroom Cafe for plenty of shopping fuel, though both Starbucks and LA fave Coffee Bean are readily available if the need for a mid-spree upper arises. The strip is packed with both boutiques and bigger names. Jeans are the thing at Paige, AG, and True Religion, or pop into Kitson and Intermix for LA trendsetter staples.  But remember, for late night in Hollywood, the short skirt reigns. Couture, cosmetics, bed and beach wear, Robertson has something for everyone…well everyone with cash to burn.

Loews Santa Monica Screams California Dreamin’

It does not get much more California than this! Loews Santa Monica is upscale comfort on par with the standards of Loews’ luxurious collection of hotels. The pool’s view overlooking the beach and the Santa Monica Pier is reason enough to stay, but it’s pure bliss to cozy up to santamonica_fun_03the fire pit and enjoy the sunset as the pier’s bright carnival lights shine against the changing sky, all with an unbelievable soundtrack of live crashing waves.

Spacious rooms have beds that you melt right into with 300 thread count linens. Brilliantly bright, clean bathrooms come with plush robes perfect for post beaching. And all rooms are complete with a comfortable corner for reading the paper while enjoying the ocean breeze from your balcony.

The Loews is walking distance from all of Santa Monica’s highlights, including the 3rd Street Promenade, Main Street, the beach and Santa Monica Pier. Capitalize on the great location by riding along the beach boardwalk on a rented bike or by running the famous Santa Monica stairs. Santa Monica’s abundant delicacies and shopping adventures are endless- and conveniently nearby.

Shake It Down Dog at Maha Yoga

Picture 7The L.A. lifestyle is all about the body and how you get it. The secret to the city’s high percentage of stellar bodies? Steve Ross at Maha Yoga leads some of the most popular classes in Los Angeles, combining a challenging practice with music that makes your booty shake.

The goal seems simple: walking out with a stronger sense of happiness. The task, however, is less so: a deepened body connection and a major extension of the body’s limits. Maha is a spiritual haven, frequented by mind and body notables (feminine sexuality guru Deborah Kagan) and the occasional celeb (Jeremy Piven), alike.

With over 20 years practice and four years as a Vendic monk, Steve unites a deep-rooted spiritual tradition with a playlist that makes the body bounce. Each lighthearted, high energy, 90-minute class keeps the focus physical and the mind off day-to-day worries. Shake it downward dog, but do not be fooled, the dance music does not deter serious yogis. Newbies and regulars alike walk out rejuvenated, but be prepared to feel it all over the next day!

UCB is Cheap Comedy- That Doesn’t Mean the Jokes

Upright Citizen’s Brigade is LA’s staple stop for comedy talent scouts. Robin Williams, Mike Myers, Will Ferrell, Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey and Conan O’Brien have all performed here. Upright Citizen’s Brigade churns out countless alumni performing and writing the uprightcitizensbest comedy, sketch comedy, late night, political and daytime talk on TV as well as major box office movies.

Improvisation teams compete with intelligence, speed and intensity that have made it a stand out among other comedy clubs. With four shows a night ranging in improvisation form and theme, there’s one for everyone and the price maxes out at a whopping $8.

While most famous for the ASSCAT production, Facebook tears audience profiles into long form improvisation gold and has become a Wednesday night highlight. Soundtrack has a mix master DJ improvising the track to color scenes with whatever is available on audience iPods. And in Cagematch, watch as the challenging team tries to overthrow the previous week’s reigning champion. Every show UCB has to offer is uniquely playful and the excitement explodes as students morph into comedians grounded in their own styles and voices.

Terroni is Terrific for Pizza and Pasta

This hot little Hollywood Italian spot will win your taste buds like it has won the locals. Terroni is the perfect weeknight place when craving some good carbs. Named after the region of the Picture 8restaurant’s imported olive oil and hot peppers, Terroni is the real Southern Italy where simplicity reigns as much as the ingredients.

At Terroni, it’s best to always prepare for a little wait as the restaurant doesn’t take reservations, but there’s no better place than to start at the bar! A glass of the Montepulciano is the perfect pairing for all authentic antipasti, pizza or pasta fare. The pizza has that thin crust, burnt richness that can only be had when right out of the brick oven.  If you can take the heat, ask for the hot peppers. You’ll leave carrying out jars of the stuff!

Besides the amazing pizza, Terroni is the perfect spot for a first or blind date; its sweet decor is just romantic enough, but the tables are close enough to spark up a conversation to your left or right if your date is a dud.

Crossing the Pond Not Needed for London Elegance

The London Hotel in West Hollywood is homey comfort with a lot more glitz. A gem in the LXR hotel collection, the London is home away from home for many out of town celebrities, some British, but most A-list. The gorgeous marble lobby is the first clue that guests are in for a very elegant stay. The staff amazingly not only knows most guests by name, but also by day two, they know their schedule and anticipate guests’ needs before they ask. Picture 11

Rooms are plush with a fabulous modern flair, but without the modern stiffness. The rooftop pool feels like a fantasy faux grass backyard in the sky, complete with cabanas, a fire pit lounge area and plenty of chaises to go around.

Serving up Gordon Ramsay delights from the Boxcar downstairs, it is easy to blow a full day just at the hotel. Dogs are welcome and even have their own terrace park for running around, while owners watch or play a game of life size chess. Walking distance from the Sunset strip and easy access to Robertson, The London is in the middle of everything and perfect for a West Hollywood getaway.

Take in the Tropical Air at the Cabanas

Cabanas at The Maritime Hotel is the Meatpacking’s rooftop escape from New York City’s summertime swelter. Whimsical patio furniture, amid tropical décor, feels like a Hampton retreat stories above the concrete jungle below. It’s always a better scene mid-week for social cocktails. A good dance floor night at Cabanas is refreshingly playful, unlike its fellow summer see and be seens.

Cabanas is just one of the Maritime Group’s NYC nightlife institutions. Its sister NYU hang Bowery Bar is another summer air favorite, and The Maritime Hotel’s Matsuri and nightclub Hiro offer a swankier scene just downstairs. A massive white wall with marine windows, the Maritime Hotel is impossible to miss. Its meatpacking/Chelsea location makes the Cabanas perfect for jumping off or capping a crisp summer night out.

Cookshop for Farmer Comfort

Cookshop is an eco-fabulous gem by the same owners as NYC East and West Village favorites Five Points and Hundred Acres. Located on 10th Avenue in Chelsea’s Historic District, Cookshop is surrounded by quaint New York brownstones and The Highline Park…perfect for walking off dessert. This elegantly comfortable eatery boasts all sustainable, farm fresh food. Cookshop masters down-home cooking with a complexity of flavor not out of just any kitchen.

Radio City Music Hall Tour

Romance and opulence make up Radio City Music Hall, one of New York’s great attractions. And it’s not just about the shows! The sheer beauty of this venue is well worth the visit, even if you don’t have those hard-to-get tickets to your dream concert. Here is where many of the city’s star-studded events take place – everything from the Grammy Awards to the annual Rockettes Christmas Spectacular. Originally built as a part of midtown Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center complex, it continues to stand strong as a symbol of glamour and entertainment.

There’s also a way to get a sneak peek inside. Following the lead of Radio City’s experienced tour guides, explore the beautiful art-deco interiors and learn the secrets of the Great Stage, one of the largest indoor performance stages in the world. The stage’s hydraulic system is still in operation since the ’30s. And at the end of the tour, guests meet one of the world-famous Radio City Rockettes.

Circle Line

Circle Line is the best way to get a bird’s eye view of Manhattan. To see the giant island, take a Circle Line boat tour from West Midtown all the way around back to West Midtown. See the 27 bridges, be awed by the downtown skyline, smell the East River, watch the endless ribbon of cars whip down FDR Drive and listen to the acerbic, to-die-for quips of the dyed-in-the-wool New York tour guides.


The Wizard of Oz is as passé as Dorothy whining and keeping someone else’s ruby slippers. The Broadway Musical Wicked takes the audience back, way before Dorothy, to the building relationship between magic boarding school roommates, Wicked Witch of the West aka Elphaba and Glinda later named the Good Witch. It is a story of popularity, love and a very unlikely friendship. Wicked breaks down everything the audience thinks they know about the Wicked Witch of the West and makes them fall in love with Elphaba.

The unforgettable music of Stephen Schwartz and choreography by Wayne Cilento led Wicked to 3 Tony wins and 10 Tony nominations. Other awards include industry elite Drama League, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Awards. Wicked is family friendly yet movingly magical for all ages.

New York Botanical Garden

As a leading educational resource on gardening and horticulture, New York’s Botanical Gardens features of fifty gardens and plant collections. Where art meets nature, flora inspired glass sculptures are a main attraction at this Bronx must-see. From the fragrant splendor of the rose garden to the pristine elegance of the waterlilies, the indoor/outdoor education center should not be missed.