A 48hour stay in L.A. It’s time to play. Day 7 & 8

A 48hour stay in L.A. It’s time to play.  Day 7 & 8

So, all comedic rhyming aside. Jess and I are in Los Angeles and preparing for a massive day of sightseeing. We’re only here for a few days. So get ready for our maniacal montage that can only be know as… LA DOOMSDAY!!

It’s half past nine, the alarm bells are buzzing. Jess is up and chirping away while she does her hair. I spent the majority of my night watching the discovery channel. It’s shark week. So I am in a far less chipper state, but I throw myself into some clothes and get ready for photos, fashion, celebrities and of course. Food.

We jump in a cab and get dropped right outside the Chinese theatre, a stellar spot on the Hollywood walk of fame. We snag ourselves some tickets on a hop on hop off bus and head for Beverly Hills. Rodeo drive is beckoning Jess and I can feel the credit card burning already.

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Beverly Hills is exactly like a scene from a movie. I mean there are mansions just everywhere! The place screams rich and famous. Speaking of scream, my stomach is making quite a racket. Pho to the rescue. And the restaurants name 9021Pho of course. If you don’t know what pho is, it is a delicious Vietnamese dish which consists of hot broth poured over noodles, and thinly sliced meat or chicken. You also get a cool little bowl of bean sprouts, Vietnamese mint and jalapeños to season it to your own taste. After 6 days of serious American grease this was exactly what I needed. Fresh and fantastic.

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We stroll on rodeo drive staring at the things we cannot possibly afford and hoping to spot an elusive celebrity in dark glasses. This place is well worth a visit, just to feel a touch of the Hollywood glitter. There’s Versace, Prada, Gucci and a whole lot of expensive sounding European words. It’s all pricey so if you stop here make sure you cash up!

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After rodeo drive we jump back on the bus and take a trip down to Santa Monica. This is the home of Venice boardwalk, and also the home of some serious gym junkies. It’s not the best weather out but we’re up for a stroll between the multi coloured cyclists and people on rollerskates. If you’re in LA I definitely recommend spending some time on the Santa Monica pier. There’s a massive Ferris wheel that let’s you look out over the beach, a roller coaster and heaps of restaurants offering fresh seafood and loads of American hotdogs. We walk all over the beach before heading back to our bus. It’s starting to get a little late in the day and my stomach is grumbling.

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Pinks’ to the rescue!! The home of some serious hotdogs. Now when I say serious hotdogs, you know I’m serious, the line for this place was around about an hour long. There are 4 cooks slaving away over a grill, toasting buns and dropping dogs. Whether you have the nacho cheese chilli dog, the double polish Elizabeth Taylor dog or like me the Philly cheese steak dog; topped with roasted peppers, caramelised onions and 4 slices of American cheese. If that’s not enough you can grab sides. Jess and I grabbed chilli nacho cheese fries, some nachos with jalapeños and a HUGE side of onion rings. This is fatty deliciousness in all its glory. Back to the hotel. Chow time!

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With every bite these dogs get better and better. Make it your stop when you’re in LA. I’m only sorry that I didn’t grab two so I could eat another one in the morning. Anyways I will commiserate in my dreams because Jess and I have walked a mile today and we are both exhausted.

Bring on tomorrow.

I feel that Jess is the Universal Studios expert so i’ll let her take over from here.

It’s a ridiculously warm Los Angeles day and Josh and I are heading for Universal Studios. It’s our last day here so we are going to try and cram in as much stuff as possible. We decide to ditch the bus after yesterdays big journey and voyage out into the traffic on our own. I think Josh is finally getting the hang of this U.S driving. After about 10 mins we arrive, I see the sign to Universal and I just cannot contain my excitement.

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For those of you that know us, you will know that rides and theme parks are my thing, put me on the scariest ride and I’ll just love it. For Josh however, it’s quite the opposite, for some reason rides just aren’t as appealing. Well that’s all about to change!

I figured we may as well just get straight into it, House of Horrors here we come! A house that you must walk through whilst trying to dodge mummies, zombies, chuckie, werewolves and everything else you can imagine. The walls and ceilings all laid with props from old school Hollywood horror films and people in costumes just waiting to scare you from around a corner. And they were successful, a mummy got Josh and chuckie still freaked me out when jumping out from a curtain and blowing air in my face. The entire time we were imagining people we knew that would just love it, and those that would just be horrified. Screaming from some girls behind us made it hilarious but also the whimpers of a young girl told us that this wasn’t for everybody.

Waterworld! The best movie ever created you say? Or the worst? Everybody remembers Kevin Costner’s search for dry land in this flop of a movie but what is the show going to be like. We enter and Josh decides to sit in the green seats marked ‘soak zone’. I agree thinking how wet can we actually get, a bit of spray? Before the show three actors are standing on the edge of the stage and we are entertained as our host squirts people with water as they walk by, with the person looking around to see where it came from of course. He then warns us that if we stay sitting here that all of the water in the stage is coming up right at us, yeah right. We then start a cheer war with the other stalls, and if you lose, a bucket of water comes your way before the host signals out one person who cops a water pistol to the face. Now to the show. Its awesome. There’s skiing, jet skis, shooting, explosions, fireworks, jumping, drowning and a freaking sea plane that flys through the wall and explodes right in front of us. Oh and did I mention that we got SOAKED! Soaked from the plane, the jet skis and of course, the shooting.  Waterworld is fantastic and a must see at Universal.

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Shrek 4D is next, a 3D experience turned up a notch. This is an extension of the final Shrek movie where you walk through the dungeon of Lord Farquad’s castle and into a theatre where the story continues. I won’t ruin the story but be prepared for the extra D.. chairs move along with the show, spiders crawl and water squirts you right in the face, I’m seeing a theme here. The Simpsons ride is another 3D experience. A virtual roller coaster where your strapped in as sideshow Bob takes over Krustyland and you work with the Simpsons to save the day. This ride is so realistic that you actually leave your stomach behind in the final drop of the coaster. One of our faves because it also keeps you entertained through the line up watching Krustyland Simpsons episodes.

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What more could you ask for than to visit the set of some of the greatest movies ever created. The studio tour is an hour long tram ride through the actual working studies of Universal. We drive through the sound studios where they were currently filming The Voice, and also drive past CSI  sets waving to the extras as we pass. The New York City facades come up next and a casual drive through ‘central park’ lands us at the King Kong 3D ride. Directed by Peter Jackson, King Kong fights off dinosaurs before we see the end of our tram being ripped off and pulled into the screen. We also experience a scene from earthquake, drive through flash flooding in the Wild West, get attacked by dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, almost get stabbed by Norman Bates at the Bates Hotel, drive through the crash at War of the Worlds and saw the great white from Jaws. Josh was even lucky enough to visit Bikini Bottom just outside the studio.

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The massive escalator down to the bottom lot leads us to the thrill rides. Here comes Jurassic Park and The Mummy. The Mummy is the roller coaster at Universal. Starting by blasting into the distance at 45 miles per hour, it twists and turns through a mummy maze , going both forward and then backwards before it plummets down the final hurdle. My favourite ride here. There is nothing better than a fast coaster, hands up in the air with screams of excitement, or terror in Josh’s case. Jurassic Park is a water ride. You sit in a raft floating along the river as it winds through the park, telling you the story of Jurassic Park. Suddenly up ahead the rafts before us disappear into darkness. Is this our fate too? It sure is. We face a T- Rex smashing through the roof of the mountain, feeling just inches away from our faces, close enough to feel its breath. Before we even have time to comprehend, the raft falls.our stomachs are left at the top as we fall 40 ft down a waterfall into the river below. Yep, we are once again drenched but the thrill pushes this far from our minds.

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This brings us to the end of Universal Studios. We do a little bit of shopping and then head back to the E.T carpark for the drive home, with just a few stops along the way. Universal is definitely a must see in LA. Our tip, pack some lunch, spend a whole day here, don’t try to do it quick because the line ups alone take half of your time away and sunscreen up, no burns this time.

A trip to LA would not be complete without visiting our next stop. The Hollywood sign, where the letters sit high in the Hollywood Hills overlooking the city below. Something that I thought could be seen all over LA as that’s what it seems in the movies you watch, however we had to track it down. Luckily our GPS knew the way to the perfect viewing location and after a few quick snaps, we were back on the road again. Hollywood Boulevard and the walk of fame. I was determined to find a star of someone famous that I knew and loved. Although I was unlucky in this quest, the streets were becoming a bit rough for us, I still walked the walk of fame and you can’t argue with that.

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After a long day our tummies were rumbling, Josh is a huge Man v Food fanatic so what better way to end LA than a classic and original French dipped sandwich. What is that you ask? You choose your meat; beef, lamb, turkey, ham or pork that’s then loaded up on a long roll where both sides have been dipped in a delicious pot of meat juice. Think of all the liquid that sits in the bottom of the tray when roasting at home, roast off five types of meat and then mix all that juice together. Watch it as it’s soaked up through the bread, topped with meat and cheese and pressed together. Delicious. That’s what you get at Philippe’s the original and its so good we went back for seconds.

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Josh is now making me watch Call of the Wildman where Turtleman is catching a coyote. I know right, seriously good Tv! It’s getting a few laughs out of me so here is where I leave you for today.

LA is fast paced, the traffic is huge and the city is always busy but it was just as amazing as I thought it would be.

Jess and Josh

The rear view mirror. A road from nowhere. Day 6

The rear view mirror. A road from nowhere. Day 6

Today we leave the lovely Monterey Bay. A quick overnight jaunt but a very nice stay. We head out nice and early after a spot of breakfast at the hotel. So marks the beginning of what we thought would be a pleasant, touristy drive down the coast.

Well GPS has taken us in a very different route. Sure it may have been the fastest but in no way was it the most interesting. We drove literally into nothing. Vast masses of brown all around us, and a straight, agonisingly straight stretch of highway ahead. I am sure we have photos on everyone of our posts that are kind of exciting and fun to look at. I must apologise in advance. The highlight of our drive to Los Angeles was seeing a squirrel and swerving to avoid the little critter.

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We also stopped at a dam…

I know right?

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The thing that we did enjoy was some serious American trucking. I mean there were trucks everywhere. And also signs for a Taco Bell smothered burrito. Delicious. Driving the 101 is kind of like being in the grand theft auto games; there’s signs for Los Santos, Santa Barbara, I even thought about pimp slapping Jess a few times. I mean we went to a dam!

 When we finally got to L.A. it was like a complete change of scenery, there’s buildings, lights, people and total city scenery. It was a fairly uneventful day but tomorrow will be huge.

Guess I’ll build a bridge over this dam and get over it.

Josh and Jess

Highway defeats and sweet retreats. Napa and Monterey Day 5

Highway defeats and sweet retreats. Napa and Monterey Day 5 

We wake to the sound of footsteps outside, other guests of the Bordeaux House are enjoying breakfast. As we lay we can smell the pastries, the coffee and the fresh Napa air. Breakfast is not on the cards for us however, we know that we need to save all the room that is humanly possible for lunch. Today we dine at Bouchon.

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We are greeted with a smile and taken outside to dine in the terrace area. It’s private, only seating around 10 diners instead of being in the hustle and bustle of inside. We choose a seat and soak the Napa sun before the shade is drawn so we can enjoy the food. Josh has gone into great detail in the Bouchon review so I won’t bore you with it all again. I will say, that this is one of the greatest French bistro meals I have ever had. French onion soup that was so delicate yet rich and flavoursome, hand cut gnocchi so perfectly cooked it melted in your mouth, fish that just pulled away from itself and frog legs so crispy it left you wanting more. And don’t even get me started on dessert! For those of you that know me well, you know I can never refuse chocolate.. no matter how hard I tried, I ordered the richest dessert possible. Bouchon is definitely a highlight for this foodie!

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Highway to hell! That’s the only way I can describe the first half of the drive to Monterey. After missing three exits because we are driving opposite in a country that loves confusing street signs and numerous lane changes, the sweat started to once again form on Josh’s forehead. I thought the GPS was going out the window, with me attached. Finally we reach highway 101, the same road we will drive all the way to Los Angeles, with a nights pit stop in Monterey.

Never before have I seen a fishing town quite like this. Monterey smells like the ocean and reminds us of Newcastle, the place we both call home. We check in to the hotel and then decide its dinner time. A quick drive around Fisherman’s Wharf  lands us at Cannery Row, yep you guessed it, where they use to put fish in cans. Sardines! The word is everywhere but luckily for me, not on the menu. This street is right on the water overlooking California’s Central Coast and is lined with shops, restaurants, bars and everything else a tourist needs.

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Dinner is quick. Louie’s Linguine provides the perfect pasta in enormous servings with a spectacular view. Josh must have been hungry because his was gone before I even started.  Home time, oh yeah, its my turn to drive! Only one more thing left to do, candy factory. Since we arrived I have wanted saltwater taffy. We hit the jackpot, taffy in so many flavours its hard to choose so I get one of everything. Josh has hit gummy overload. We are literally kids in a candy store and I never want to leave. A few hefty bags later and we are on sugar highs back at the hotel. Saltwater taffy is so incredibly sweet with a saltiness that just makes it better. Lucky for me, Josh hates it. I’m excited because now I can eat it all, and that’s exactly what I did.

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Jess and Josh.

Bouchon Bistro Yountville
6534 Washington ST Yountville, California USA
http://www.bouchonbistro.com/yountville

Unrequested upgrades and dreamy destinations. Napa Valley Day 4

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Unrequested upgrades and dreamy destinations. Napa Valley Day 4

We start with a casual late check out today at Royal Pacific Motor Inn and feel as though the rest of the day will continue the same. Pick up to the airport arrives as we wave goodbye to sunny San Francisco, when suddenly we are thrown into conversation with the driver. First it’s why we’re in town, then it’s our choice of weed. This New Yorker moved to San Fran because the laws were a little more lenient for his lifestyle, he was a little disappointed when we knew little of the subject.

Suddenly our travels are thrown into turmoil as we’re taken into the almost underbelly of San Fran to pick up some wayward travellers. After an hours drive, a lot of laughs and a few bumps on the head, we arrive at San Francisco airport to pick up our very first rental car of the trip.

Simon, our Hertz customer service consultant seemed to know more about what we wanted then us. “Upgrade to a more luxurious car” “You’ll need more room I’ll upgrade to bigger car” “You need to sit higher I’ll upgrade you to higher car”. It was like trying to lose a salesman in a car yard! Finally we make it out and head to our rental, a silver Chevy, a large, luxurious and fairly high seated car, without the additional hundred dollar a day fee.

It’s Josh’s turn to stress. I get in the right side of the car as Josh heads toward the wheel. He looks nervous. I remind him of some helpful advice from one of my customers, passengers in the gutter!

Thank god for the GPS! If you think driving in Sydney is bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet. This highway is intense. Josh grips the wheel tight as we merge into the middle, an hour passes and as Josh wipes the sweat from his brow we arrive in Yountville, a small town in the Napa Valley.

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Yountville is a beautiful town. Large houses and quaint B&B’s surrounded by gardens, pebble paths and flowers, oh the flowers. We settle at the Bordeaux House, a French Provincial cottage slice of cake. Speaking of cake, Bouchon Bakery is calling our name.. After a lot of salivating we settle on croissants, pain au chocolat, chocolate bouchon, whoopie pie, ham and Dijon baguette, pork belly fouiee, eclairs and lemon tart. Finished with a double Mach for Josh and an iced salted caramel latte for me. This is just pastry heaven. Some of the best and most delicious pastries we have ever eaten.

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Full of Bouchon, we detour to Thomas Keller’s pride and joy, The French Laundry. One of the only restaurants we were unable to book. We stalk the kitchen, behind the restaurant is a smell that could only mean chef is prepping for dinner, it’s garlic, butter and all things delightful.

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For dinner, we head to Ad Hoc, another of Chef Keller’s top eateries. A four course set menu that is added to when fresh shaved white Italian truffle and bone marrow are mentioned, this time we welcome the upgrades. Ad Hoc is everything I love when it comes to eating out, Josh will tell you more about the food in the restaurant review but I want to mention our waiter. It really makes you love your job when you see front of house staff like this, always smiling, singing along to the 80’s retro pop/rock background music and hearing him say “I’m here for you” when a customer had special dietary requests.

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Our stay in Napa is short and sweet.

The leftover pastries won’t last the night.

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Jess and Josh

Now this is Napa Style. Dinner at Ad Hoc

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Now this is Napa Style. Dinner @ Ad-hoc

The French Laundry, Thomas Keller’s beacon restaurant, remains one of the hardest restaurants in the world to get reservations at. I mean Jess and I have reservations at Noma, Faviken, Mugaritz, Alinea, the list goes on and on but how the hell you get reservations at TFL. Clueless. So we settle for a peep through the hedges and loads of photos out the front.

Luckily for us The Napa Valley is like Thomas Keller’s house and he has several restaurants, and a bakery, for you to enjoy. We are in fact visiting all of them. Ad-hoc is an impromptu little place where the menu is so produce driven that it changes daily. Served family style, we settle in for a four course menu with a few cocktails. BUT THEN… Our waiter says “oh, we have some additions this evening.” Oh some additions? We love additions. Then he mentioned summer truffles. All the way from Alba. 25 dollars. Sir you have a deal! Then bone marrow is mentioned. I’m a chef. This guy knew when he said bone marrow that I was eating it. I mean bone marrow. Bring it on.

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We open the evening with a salad of asparagus, hens eggs, frisée, and a piquillo pepper salsa. Jess and I are deep into a house made spiced vodka lemonade and a No sleep till…kind of like a whiskey, orange bitter concoction. The salad is just wonderful, the cooking here is refined and sophisticated. It takes a confident chef to send a simple dish of asparagus, lightly dressed with a lemon vinaigrette, and perfectly poached hens eggs. This is clever cooking. A light start, like a kiss on a warm summers evening.

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 Main course is a mans dish. Meat. Roasted meat. Then I of course added mounds of white truffle and bone marrow. This is a seriously great dish. Ribeye cooked on the bone, sautéed chanterelles, carrots and Swiss chard. On the side, a risotto of corn with a Parmesan foam. Also covered in white truffle. The meat is cooked perfectly, the fat melts in the mouth and the meat has a delicious grassland note. The chefs here care about their produce. If it isn’t great tasting you just won’t see it on the menu at Ad-hoc.

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The bone marrow is roasted and served with a caponata of sautéed eggplants and capers. It is everything that it should be, rich, oozing, fatty, white deliciousness. I can literally feel my arteries clogging. We haven’t even had cheese yet and I’m smearing marrow on bread like a Viking warrior. The stomach is starting to fill

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Cheese is served as a dish of its own right. No crackers, no jarred quince paste. San Andreas, a sheeps milk cheese, aged for three months; served with shaved fennel, plums and candied pecan. Now I usually consider the pecan a waste of a nut but everything is better candied. The cheese has an almost pecorino note, it also reminds Jess a little of Parmesan. Firm yet creamy and utterly delicious.

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Dessert is a throwback to everyone’s childhood. A sundae bar. There’s house made fudge sauce, caramel, cookie crumbs and brownie pieces. The sundae glasses are tall and frosty, filled with freshly churned vanilla bean ice cream.

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Excuse me? Can I lick the glass please? Jess and I are up to our elbows in ice cream and giggling like we’re five years old. Are other tables looking? Who cares.

imageThis is the spirit of Ad-hoc, a place to take away the hunger pains. A place where food is the driving force of everything the talented staff do. This isn’t about formality or a waiters stiff upper lip. The staff are in jeans and laughing with diners. This entire place is warm, welcoming and not pretentious in any way. We loved everything we ate and will definitely be back.

Do yourself a favour and add (hoc) this one to your list.

Josh and Jess

 Ad Hoc
6476 Washington St Yountville, California USA
 http://www.adhocrestaurant.com