Since 1969, restaurant, hotel, travel & other witty reviews by a handpicked, worldwide team of discerning professionals—and your views, too.




  • pinitbutton Farm to Tequila: A Visit to Casa Herradura

coleccion de la casa 2013 332x500 Farm to Tequila: A Visit to Casa Herradura

by Jeff Hoyt

There is some dispute as to who first said, “No one should see how laws or sausages are made.” But there’s no dispute that seeing how Tequila is made is a fascinating experience.

Vodka can be distilled from potatoes, wheat, grapes or other substances. But Tequila is only made from blue agave, one of the 200 known types of agave.  On a recent trip to Amatitán, Jalisco, Mexico, I got to visit the Herradura estate where blue agave is grown, harvested and transformed into Mexico’s finest export. 

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on September 16th, 2013
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  • pinitbutton Flyboarding
aqua launch airborne1 Flyboarding

Jeff Hoyt gets airborne via flyboard at Big Bear Lake, CA

Above Big Bear Lake Without a Net

To speed across the water, first came surfboarding, then sailboarding, paddleboarding, wakeboarding and kiteboarding. Now there’s a way to speed across and above the water: flyboarding.

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Vino at Valentino

on June 06th, 2013
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  • pinitbutton Vino at Valentino
s ioseph pileum 500x333 Vino at Valentino

Le Corti dei Farfensi “S. Joseph” Rosso Piceno Superiore DOC 2009 and Pileum “Massitium” 2009

by Jeff Hoyt

Italian cuisine restaurants have been popular in the U.S. for decades. And what better way to enjoy Italian food than accompanied by fine Italian vino? We recently enjoyed an evening of Italian wines at Valentino, Piero Selvaggio‘s Santa Monica restaurant that celebrated its 40th anniversary last year, as part of the Vino California celebration. Other events around town included dinners at Aventine Hollywood, Enoteca Drago and a Grand Tasting.

“In only its third year, Vino California has quickly become an iconic fixture on the national wine landscape,” said Letizia Miccoli, Executive Director of the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce West. “We are thrilled to bring such an extensive taste of Italy to Los Angeles which is filled with experienced wine consumers and professionals that are eager to learn more about old world wines.”

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Southern Comfort

on April 09th, 2013
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  • pinitbutton Southern Comfort
So Co Bold Black Cherry 104x300 Southern Comfort

Southern Comfort Bold Black Cherry

If It Tastes Like a Whiskey…

by Jeff Hoyt

What is Southern Comfort? If you think it’s a whiskey as many do, you’re mistaken, but don’t feel too bad. The original formula did contain whiskey, while today it features just whiskey flavoring. The iconic brand founded in 1874 is actually a liqueur that has been a favorite of rockers like Janis Joplin.

We’ve never been too partial to this sweet concoction with the great name. But something magical happens when you blend it over ice with another sweet mixer, such as Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper or fruit juice. Somehow the sweets cancel each other out, and you’re left with a refreshing, tasty drink that is way too easy to over-indulge in on a hot day.

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  • pinitbutton Sonoma County Grape Camp
bevill hanna vineyard 300x199 Sonoma County Grape Camp

Grape Camp participants (credit: Darren Miller Photography)

by Jeff Hoyt

It’s early morning and I’m hunched over in a cold Sonoma Valley vineyard wielding razor-sharp shears picking thousands of grapes while trying not to cut off my fingers. I am reminded of the protesting words Billy Crystal’s character Mitch Robbins in “City Slickers” yells as he is getting dragged behind a cow: “I’m on vacation!!!!”

At least I didn’t have to harvest grapes at night like many of the real vineyard workers when the cold makes the fruit easier to move. And after picking, most real crews don’t get to refresh with 2005 J Vineyards & Winery Vintage Brut. I am spending my vacation at Sonoma County Grape Camp, which gives wine aficionados and rookies alike a few days of hands-on experience in the wine world from grape picking and stomping to wine pairing and blending.

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Abigaile Kitchen Takeover

on February 28th, 2013
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  • pinitbutton Abigaile Kitchen Takeover
kitchen takeover 300x200 Abigaile Kitchen Takeover

Tin Vuong, Tony DiSalvo, sous chef, Dean McDermott, Jet Tila, Amy Veraldi, Emily Collisson, Jorge Valines

by Jeff Hoyt

You’ve heard of a Kitchen Makeover, but how about a Kitchen Takeover? Chef Tin Vuong of Abigaile hosts a monthly Kitchen Takeover at his American restaurant in the heart of Hermosa Beach, California, close to the sand. He invites a group of chefs to help him prepare the special menu available for one night only, with each toque preparing a different course.

We were lucky enough to attend his last gathering in the historic, rustic building. We made our way past the large vats where the house-brewed beer is made to a large, casual table across from the lively bar. The theme was global cuisine, and it didn’t disappoint.

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  • pinitbutton Koi     Feeding Stars and Stargazers for More Than a Decade
koi restaurant 300x200 Koi     Feeding Stars and Stargazers for More Than a Decade

Interior of Koi restaurant

by Jeff Hoyt

In Los Angeles, restaurants come and go. In fact, we have a list of more than 1,100 of them that we have reviewed that are no longer open for business. Restaurants that hope to capitalize on the feeding of celebrities seem to fail at a greater rate. This could be due to a variety of reasons, including:

• higher costs for design and decor, as celebs can’t be seen just anywhere;

• higher operating expenses, as extra staff are required to deal with publicists, paparazzi and the like;

• fickle trendsetters moving on to the latest and the greatest, as they abandon yesterday’s place for the next restaurant opening;

• freeloading stars who expect meals for their posses and themselves comped believing proprietors should be thrilled that they even showed up;

• the simple fact that celebs don’t eat that much or they’ll wind up starring in a Weight Watchers commercial instead of a TV series.

Consult our list of the Top 10 Star Spotting Restaurants in LA and you’ll see quality restaurants where you’ll find a good meal even if you don’t spot an Academy Award winner. On that list is Koi, which we have been enjoying for more than a decade.

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Snow Rookies

on February 15th, 2013
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  • pinitbutton Snow Rookies
alpine slide 300x225 Snow Rookies

Riding the Alpine Slide

by Jeff Hoyt

EDITOR’S NOTE: Between a fatal bus crash and a manhunt for a revenge-minded cop-turned-copkiller, Big Bear Lake, California, has been in the national news a lot lately. I had the pleasure of visiting the area just before the back-to-back headline-grabbers occurred. As the area struggles to put these episodes behind them, the following innocent tale reflects the type of news Big Bear wants to make.

Growing up in sunny Southern California, my daughters are exposed to sand, sea, surf and sun, but not snow. Good thing nature provided Angelenos with nearby mountains so kids can frolic in a geographically desirable winter wonderland. For their first foray into snow, the kids rode up to Big Bear Lake, California, which is taking on child obesity and promoting healthy lifestyles through a new program called KIDS. GET OUTDOORS. WIN.

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  • pinitbutton Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Woody Tailgate Trailer
Bulleit Woody Trailer7 249x300 Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Woody Tailgate Trailer

The Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Woody-Tailgate Trailer

by Jeff Hoyt

We haven’t bought our turkey yet. Black Friday is still two weeks away. Is it too early to go holiday shopping? Not if you have your eye on a one-of-a-kind item like the Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Woody-Tailgate Trailer!

This old-school trailer designed by Brad Ford is the perfect gift for the Bourbon or Rye lover in your life. “I wanted to create something that would express the brand’s unique character, yet would also elevate an activity that all of us are familiar with,” said Ford. Check out the video in which Ford explains his inspiration.

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The Food Event

on October 26th, 2012
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  • pinitbutton The Food Event
camechana 300x225 The Food Event

Camechana from Public School

by Jeff Hoyt

The heavens were threatening, but blue sky prevailed over clouds high above the hills of Malibu where The Food Event by Los Angeles Magazine was held this past Sunday. At Saddlerock Ranch — home to Malibu Family Wines and producers of Saddlerock and Semler Wines — thousands of diners queued up to try the latest creations from more than forty LA-area restaurants washed down by wine, beer, vodka, Veev, and even Sri Lankan spirits!

We certainly didn’t get a chance to try every dish, but our favorite was David LeFevre’s sword squid from Manhattan Beach Post (M. B. Post) served over fava beans. We also enjoyed smoky fried chicken from Plan Check Kitchen + Bar, live prawn from The Royce at the Langham, lamb chops from The Strand House, squash blossom tamales with mole from Malo and Más Malo and adobo short rib tacos and smoked camechana — a spicy Mexican seafood cocktail made with shrimp, scallops and halibut — from Public School, which will be opening soon in Culver City after a successful downtown launch.

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