Jessica’s Picks: Los Angeles

August 08, 2014

One of my favorite playwrights, Neil Simon, once said: “When it’s 100 degrees in New York, it’s 72 in Los Angeles. When it’s 30 degrees in New York, in Los Angeles it’s still 72. However, there are six million interesting people in New York, and only 72 in Los Angeles.”

Years of careful empirical analysis suggests Mr. Simon’s assessment of the West Coast metropolis was basically accurate, give or take a dozen ‘interesting people,’ though he seems to have neglected (or perhaps never discovered) that Los Angeles is itself interesting, making the need for interesting people less acute. So pack your parasol and driver’s license and bring your own friends to make the most of the wide variety of activities and sights this sprawling city has to offer.

What to See:
There are a number of wonderful museums in Los Angeles like LACMA and MOCA, but try to venture further afoot and visit The Norton Simon in Pasadena. Founded by 20th Century industrialist Norton Simon in 1974, it houses one of the finest private collections in the country. Of note is the large collection of Degas ballerinas and my personal favorite is Raphael’s “Madonna and Child with Book.” Stay around Pasadena and spend a few hours walking through The Huntington, another 20th Century industrialist’s private institution comprising a vast garden, library and art collection that houses one of the most comprehensive collections of French and English 18th Century art, including Thomas Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy.

Where to stay:
Los Angeles has a plethora of storied hotels, some with a more dissolute history than others, but my favorite hotel is the Chateau Marmont. The Chateau’s rooms look just like your favorite prewar New York apartment, replete with 1930s kitchens and brown carpets and chipped vanities. There is no gym, no spa and no gift shop, but a fabulous garden, foyer, catwalk-like entrance and pool for skinny-dipping. If you book the infamous Room 64, you can bring the new friends you made over dinner upstairs to watch the sun rising over all of West Hollywood. Eloise wishes she’d grown up here.

What to do, Where to Shop and What to Eat:
Los Angeles is a neurotic foodie’s wet dream: from Italian to Japanese, some of the country’s best restaurants are hidden in this town, not infrequently in strip malls. And of course the juicing craze can’t have started anywhere else but here. Skip breakfast, strap on your running shoes and head down to Beverly Boulevard, where the original juice wizards – Beverly Hills Juice – have occupied a modest storefront and remained true to their original mandate since 1975. Nothing but juice and their famous banana manna (a secret frozen mush made of bananas and almonds) can be procured here, so grab a Green Genie, throw in some E3 Live and head to Franklin Canyon Park, a primeval 604-acre park in the heart of Beverly Hills, with trails that go for miles and a rattlesnake or two to keep you on your toes. Find a trailhead and just start (there is never overcrowding) and at every turn you’ll marvel that you’re only 10 minutes from Rodeo Drive. Especially when you get to the very top and have all of Los Angeles at your feet.

If you weren’t prepared for the three distinct weather patterns of an average Los Angeles day (overcast/scalding/cool) and didn’t pack accordingly, you’re in luck. Make your way back into West Hollywood—Melrose Avenue to be exact: the DVF store is newly stocked with pre-fall gems, like our Heather ruffle leather jacket that will go as well with a ball gown as with a pair of cut-offs.  Once you’ve cleaned out the store, you can take a break at Croft Alley in Croft Alley, all of 11 steps west of the store.  Brand new and modest, this artisanal deli and charcuterie specializes in locally sourced salads, pizzettes and sandwiches, the sort of ingredients-centric food they don’t make anywhere as well as they do in Los Angeles. Stick around for dessert: the menu changes weekly, but you may be in luck and get a dose of steaming homemade churros with dulce de leche dipping butter. Wind your way through the back end of the restaurant and out the front of Albert’s Coffee Shop for an espresso. With a dose of caffeinated energy, cross the street and check out the selection of special art books, first editions and objects for sale at appointment-only Lead Apron, one of the best art book dealers on either coast. If you haven’t made an appointment in time, new beauty emporium Violet Grey is across the street. Peruse the tightly curated shelves for the latest in beauty and skin care.  Keep your eyes peeled for its glamorous founder, Cassandra Grey, manning the till.

Take a little dip (skinny, if you can) at the Chateau pool and think about your dinner plans. Los Angeles is known for its spectacular (and occasionally pedantic) sushi joints, so you’ll be surprised that some its finest examples are in fluorescent lit, Spartan corner storefronts in strip malls. My personal favorite is an easily overlooked sliver on Little Santa Monica on the very edge of Beverly Hills. Always do the omakaze and remember it’s gauche to dissolve wasabi in your soy sauce.
If your tastes run more continental, there is no better Italian than the iconic Giorgio Baldi in Santa Monica. Dimly lit, discreet and packed every night, Hollywood power brokers have been cramming around the tables here for decades and no wonder; the food both on and off the menu is superb, and hierarchical ego maintenance unparalleled.

You’ll need to wake up early to catch the first class at Yoga Shelter, Studio City’s (if not California’s) best yoga studio. Across the street from Tracy Anderson’s Studio, Eric Paskel’s Yoga Rocks Bootcamp – a combination of yoga, martial arts and dance – will leave you more toned, sweaty and happier than the navel gazing and occasionally ankle crunching classes by the notorious celebrity trainer.

Los Angeles is a mecca for design junkies, not just for the mostly preserved mid-century modern architecture that dots the landscape from the Pacific Palisades to Atwater Village (Lautners, Neutra and Koenigs galore) but also the many top notch design stores like Gallerie Half (with its selection of 20th century design, European antiques and found objects) Blackman Cruz (with its rarified and ever-changing selection of just about everything) and Lorca Cohen’s The Window (eclectic, whimsical sculptures and furniture). For a truly special experience to top off your weekend, visit Just One Eye, Los Angeles’ most avant-garde clothing store, where you can also pick up a Carlo Bugati chair or two, a G Lorenzi chess set and a pair of Converse cut from a Nate Lowman painting… souvenirs!


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