Sunday, March 18, 2018

How Brilliant! Healthy and Delicious Food at Grilliant

Photography by Eddie Sanchez

From an outsider’s perspective, Los Angeles seems to be obsessed with healthy eating. We’re portrayed as eaters that only chow down heaping bowls of raw kale and flavorless nutritious food but that’s not the case at all. While California cuisine and our LA lifestyle promotes health and well being, that doesn’t negate the fact that we want food that’s as flavorful and delicious, as it is healthy. One of those places that embodies that ethos is Grilliant!

Grilliant is a healthy place to eat with an emphasis on delicious Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors at an affordable price. “Fast casual,” you ask? You can say that, since the process of ordering is at the counter but the cuisine is above your typical fast-casual spot. Their focus is to serve and prepare food fresh with only the best quality ingredients that shine through in every bite. The menu is grounded in traditional Mediterranean dishes and ingredients but served with a fresh Cali-style twist - think organic quinoa or kale salads with Mediterranean ingredients. Of course, kabobs and flat bread wraps are staples and various hummus and spreads round out the menu as well. 

Grilliant is the brainchild of wife and husband team Bahar & Amir. For Bahar, hospitality is a big part of any Iranian family and the most important part of it for her, is always food. Coming from a big family and passion for food, Grilliant came to life with husband and partner Amir by her side. Mediterranean cuisine that combines her heritage with healthy California living is what it’s all about. So the next time someone gives you a hard time for thinking LA doesn’t healthy and delicious food, take them to Grilliant to prove them wrong. 

Organic quinoa salad with salmon. 

Fire-grilled chicken wrap
Mediterranean Labneh with pita bread

Banana Strawberry Smoothie

Dining area at the Westwood location 

Grilliant (3 Locations)
4007 W Riverside Drive, Burbank, CA 91505;
3850 Main Street Unit C, Culver City, CA 90232;
10861 Lindbrook Drive, Westwood, CA 90024

Monday, February 12, 2018

Stay / Eat / Do: Dana Point Edition

Photography by Eddie Sanchez

When a city's official motto is, "Harboring the Good Life," thoughts of an amazing oceanside getaway in a beautiful locale immediately come to mind. Picture a place with unique shops and interesting restaurants, on a latern-lined street complete with a trolly cruising by. The "Good Life" means leaving your cares back at home while you relax in a world-class resort, watching the most beautiful sunset over the ocean. This is Dana Point and everything about it is good. That's why when we were invited to explore Dana Point and share our experience, it was no surprise to us that we fell in love with this charming city characterized by coastal bluffs and rolling hills. If you're planning to visit, we've narrowed down our favorite restaurants in Dana Point and the best things to do. Here's our recommendations for where to stay, where to eat, and what to do in Dana Point. 


Dana Point provides many options for accommodations. Everything from camping at scenic beaches to quaint Victorian-style bed & breakfasts, to luxurious 5 Star resorts, the city will have exactly what you're looking for. And if you're looking for an amazing resort with luxurious amenities like fire-side guest rooms, scenic views, private beach, and a breathtaking pool, look no further than the Monarch Beach Resort. The property offers running routes, golf and tennis for the active traveler, kids club for families, chef-driven cuisine for foodies, and a romantic setting for couples. There's something for everyone here. 

Fireside terrace guest room featuring a private terrace with a personal fire pit to keep you warm on cool, coastal nights. 

Large soaking tub.

Why get out of bed? Have in-room dining delivered to you. 

Monarch Beach Resort
1 Monarch Beach Resort N
Dana Point, CA 92629


Ceviche from Sombra, Monarch Beach Resort's poolside Mexican cantina. 

The Good Life is not complete without good eats and Dana Point has plenty of them. The unique restaurants in Dana Point will have any foodie bookmarking a food-crawl on their next visit. From farm-to-table cuisine that revolves around seasonal ingredients at a high end resort, to a casual taqueria in a strip mall, you'll find exactly what you're looking for in this city. 

Monarch Bay Club
Only open to resort guests or members, this place is not to be missed if you're staying at the resort (and we already told you to). Savor char-grilled meats and fresh-caught seafood in a breathtaking oceanfront setting. Expect California-style cuisine here in a more relaxed environment by the beach.

Shrimp roll with basil aioli on a sweet roll.
Monarch Bay Club

AVEO Table + Bar
Offering seating on a large terrace overlooking the resort for the ultimate al fresco dining experience, AVEO is a Mediterranean concept focused on seasonal ingredients to create fresh California-inlfuenced dishes. Taking a "Farm-to-Bar" approach to cocktails, the bar program features ingredients harvested from the resort's own garden. Try the Catalina Sunset for a refreshing aperitif.

Chef's special: Chilean Sea Bass pan seared with vegetable ragu. 

1 Monarch Beach Resort N
Dana Point, CA 92629

We're always asked the question, "What restaurant do you recommend that has great food and an ocean view?" That answer will now include Raya at the Ritz Carlton, Laguna Niguel. Chef Richard Sandoval brings Pan-Latin flavors through locally sourced ingredients. Highlights include the Arroz Negro, a paella-like dish, as well as the lamb lollipops. 

Arroz negro - black forbidden rice, Maine lobster, prawns, mussels, calamari, Dungeness crab and Spanish chorizo. 
1 Ritz Carlton Dr
Dana Point, CA 92629

Crank & Grind
If you're like us and are very picky about good coffee (AKA coffee snob), then make a stop at Crank & Grind. Organic, fair trade, and roasted by the best roasters around the country, you're getting a premium cup of joe at this cool, underrated spot that shares a space with a bicycle shop. If you're hungry, make sure to grab one of their toasts. 

Smoked salmon and avocado toast with a perfect cortado, complete with beautiful latte art. 
34150 Pacific Coast Hwy
Dana Point, CA 92629

Lupe's Mexican Eatery
For a fast casual lunch, look no further than Lupe's for traditional Michoacan dishes mixed with Baja style seafood (think fish tacos). The small space, with a hip vibe, features some of Dana Point's best tacos and burritos. Plus they also serve Mexican sodas and craft brews from Baja.
Surf & Turf Burrito - steak, shrimp, pico, guac, rice, cheese, and white sauce. 
33621 Del Obispo St
Dana Point, CA 92629

Craft House
Open for just over a year and already a Dana Point staple, Craft House is that place you go to have a great food and a great time. With unique craft cocktails (no pun intended) to round out the experience, this is a lively restaurant perfect for a night out.

34094 Pacific Coast Hwy
Dana Point, CA 92629


There are so many things to do in Dana Point that you may not have enough time to do it all. You already know that the city has some of the best resorts and with it are some of the best pools. Take a day to relax in a cabana while eating and drinking poolside. Or perhaps you love to actually be out on the ocean, the Dana Wharf offers everything from boat rentals, to kayaking, jet skiing, and paddle boarding. If you love to fish, there are options for sport fishing but if you're more of a spectator, whale watching excursions are the perfect way to get your sea legs. Of course the area offers great shopping, golfing, and world class spas as well. There's no shortage of things to do in Dana Point.

Private cabana at Monarch Beach Resort. 
Private beach for resort guests of the Monarch Beach Resort. 

Charters take off daily from the Dana Point Wharf. 

Watersport activities like kayaking and jet skis are a great way explore the Wharf.

Couples treatment room with a private hot tub at Miraval Spa. 

Award winning Monarch Beach Golf Links.

Sunset over Dana Point.

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Special thanks to Dana Point for collaborating with Hungry in LA. As always, the content and opinions expressed here are entirely our own.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A Wolf's Passion for Food with Chef Marcel Vigneron

In Partnership with the Premium Rewards Gold Card from American Express

If you haven't been to Chef Marcel Vigneron's restaurant on Melrose, you should highly consider making a reservation soonWolf embodies an intimate space with a contemporary yet rustic vibe serving innovative Californian cuisine. Chef Marcel prides himself in having a menu driven by seasonal ingredients sourced at local farmers markets. His passion for cuisine is influenced by his extensive travels as well as LA's diverse culinary culture. 

Yes, we pride ourselves for our exciting restaurant scene in LA. If you're a foodie like me, you'll want to know that with the American Express Gold Card, you earn 2X Membership Rewards Points at U.S. restaurants (terms apply). That means twice the points and twice the fun while dining at your favorite places!

Thanks to the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, I had the opportunity to hang out with Chef Marcel in his kitchen as he showed me how he makes his famous Mushroom Risotto and Pork Belly Tom Kha. It was an incredible experience. We talked about how he started cooking, his favorite burger in LA, and which taco truck you should be hitting up. You can eavesdrop on our conversation below.

Chef Marcel Vigneron putting the finishing touches on those famous Brussels Sprouts. 

When did you become interested in cooking?
I first became interested in cooking by watching my mom, just growing up as a kid and watching her in the kitchen and just kind of like being fascinated by what she was doing. Originally, my first sort of like spark and inspiration from cooking just came from my mother

How did you become a chef?
                  I didn't decide to become a chef until a little bit later in life. I cooked all throughout high school, but it was more so kind of a job than a career. After I graduated high school, I really had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, and I took a trip to Europe to kind of do some soul searching. I backpacked through Italy, Spain, Greece, France, for about three or four months. It was at that time that I came to the progressive realization that I was already doing what I wanted to be doing, and I just needed to pursue it wholeheartedly. I would say my first trip to Europe was really kind of the biggest impacting factor on what made me decide to become a chef.

How did the concept of Wolf come about?
                  The concept of Wolf came about when I decided to open up my own restaurant, and I was like, "Okay, I'm going to this." Then, "What is a restaurant essentially?" A restaurant's a team. Then also where did my cooking come from? It came originally from my mother, so my mother's maiden name is Gaelic for wolf. It's Felan. I thought, to pay an homage to my mom, what better name to call it than wolf? But also to just pay respect to restaurants in general because they are teams, and I consider us to be like the wolf pack.
          There's that old saying that the strength of the pack is the wolf and the strength of the wolf is the pack. It's like the same could be said for a restaurant. You're only as strong as your team, so we're just building a strong team and I wanted to instill that in the team here at Wolf. That was a huge inspiration for me.

What are your two favorite dishes on the menu right now?
                  I would say the Pork Belly Tom Kha is one of my all-time favorite dishes on the menu right now. Just seeing the evolution of the dish and the progression of it, I'm just so happy with where that dish is right now, and the way that we cook it, and everything from cracking open the fresh Thai coconuts, to infusing the nuoc cham with lemongrass. The nuoc cham has the acidity and the saltiness from the fish sauce and the lime juice, and it's just a really, really nice balance of modern, traditional techniques, but also light and heavy, coming together, so that's probably one of my favorites right now.
         Then I'd say my other favorite dish right now, a staple on the Wolf menu, is Let the Beet Drop. It's got the Jackson Pollock beet puree with the yuzu and then the meringues and the beet jerky, and just the berries and the plums. It's basically a nice showcase of what we're able to do here. You've got pickles, but then you also have liquid nitrogen meringues, you've got goat cheese snow. It's like plays on classics with beets and goat cheese, but then it's just in a fun sort of new, interactive manner.

Where do you find your inspiration for creating new dishes? 
                  I draw inspiration from pretty much anywhere/ everything. It can be going out and dining. It could be at one of the most impressive three-Michelin-star restaurants, or it could be a taco truck, or it could be some little late-night Thai Town extravaganza. Then it could also be from dining experiences, but also ingredients, so going to the farmer's market and shopping, and seeing what's in season, and just talking to your food and just being like, "Okay, the pomegranates or the persimmons," or whatever it is, and just being conscious and present with the seasons and with the ingredients, and seeing what they have to offer, but then also how they want to interact together is a huge culinary muse for me.

Aside from the 10K burger on your menu, what's your favorite burger in LA?
                  I'm a huge burger guy. The 10K came back when Blais battled me to a burger battle on Top Chef and I made that burger, and Wolfgang had the burger, and he was like, "Marcel, you could be the new burger guy." I won the competition with that burger, and so I thought what better burger to put on our menu?
          But my favorite burger in LA is probably "The Morning After" at Stout Burger. Yeah, it's a good one. I'm a sucker when you put an egg on a burger, you know what I mean? I love a good egg on a burger. 

What are two favorite dishes you could eat every day?
                  Favorite two dishes I could eat every day? Tacos. I love Mexican food. I could eat tacos all day, every day. Then the other dish that I feel like I could eat every day is sushi. Japanese food, I love sushi, you know what I mean? Tacos and sushi.
Is there a particular taco place or taco truck you go to?
                 There is, yeah, yeah. El Chato, I don't know if you've ever been there. Just the chef there, she's the quintessential taco truck lady, and she's got the Gucci glasses and a beanie on and she's just like throwing down on the plancha. She's like my spirit animal. El Chato, I would say, is our go-to taco joint.
Who's your favorite dinner companion, if you had to choose?
                 That's a tossup. I'm going to go with my general manager, Matthias. We go out to restaurants and stuff like that and to be able to just riff off of somebody and be able to notice and just pick everything up because it's like when we go out to a nice restaurant, I have the capability of turning it off and just being like, "Oh, let me get some food." But when I really want to analyze something, he's great because we'll pick up on the details in the service, and every little facet of the gem, and to somebody who's dining with another sort of elevated hospitality industry professional, and to be able to like, "Oh, this would work at Wolf," or, "This wouldn't work at Wolf," or, "Oh, I really like what they did here." To just be engaged, I would have to go with my GM.

What's next on the horizon for you?
                  For me, continuing to do what we're doing, and just making sure that Wolf and Beefsteak is creating phenomenal experience for people. But I think Wolf is ready for a little bit of expansion. We're thinking about picking it up and taking it on the road, and doing another one, and just kind of creating a little wolf pack of Wolves all across the country.

Plating the mushroom risotto like a delicate work of art. 

Brussels sprouts with fish caramel, watermelon radish, and lime. 

Pork Belly Tom Kha with black tiger shrimp,
black kale, cherry tomato, pickled onion, and coriander. 

7661 Melrose Ave, 
Los Angeles, CA 90046

Sunday, October 29, 2017

There's No Place Like The Del For The Holidays

Close your eyes and imagine a magical place that is everything you can want in a holiday getaway. You enter a beautiful historic Victorian building and are greeted by a two-story tall Christmas tree that's decorated as if it came out of a storybook.  As you exit the foyer, pass the hot chocolate stands, you hum along to the tune of Let It Snow that is playing in the background. You see a crowd gather, looking up, and you notice that artificial snow is beginning to fall. There's a cool chill in the air causing the palm trees to sway and you tighten that scarf just a bit more snug while gliding down the ice on your skates. As you make another turn around the rink, you can't believe how perfect this winter wonderland on the beach really is! Yes, that's right! Snow, ice, hot cocoa, lights, and an ocean view! That's what spending the holidays is like at the Hotel del Coronado. 

S  T  A  Y

There's no doubt that the iconic Hotel del Coronado is a must-visit place on any traveler's bucket list. But that cannot be more true during the holiday season that kicks off at Thanksgiving. There is a nostalgic feeling you get when you visit this place during that time. It feels magical. 

Maybe it's the history, the hotel has been around since 1888! In California, that seems very rare these days. The history and architecture, as well as the high level of service that has remained over the century is remarkable. It's classic California at its best - an oceanfront resort with luxury, style, and reputation. 

Step back in time to the luxurious Hotel Lobby from 1888. 
Original elevator still in operation. Once the gate opens the elevator operator will usher you to your designated floor. 

The rooms at Hotel del Coronado are spacious, comfortable and boasts some of the most incredible views of the Pacific Ocean.

Private balcony from the room overlooking the ocean. 

D  I  N  E

For Thanksgiving, the hotel hosts a lavish buffet with everything you can think of for the perfect holiday feast and more. Carving stations with with perfectly roasted turkey, melt-in-your-mouth prime rib, and traditional hams are all available. Made-to-order salads and an array of seafood options (yes there's lobster mac and cheese and crab legs) round out your dinner. Go back for seconds or thirds, but save room for the tables full of desserts. Everything from pumpkin pie to chocolate fondue is sure to give you a sugar high, something you'll need to prolong the inevitable but oh-so-worth-it food coma. Yes, the food at Hotel del Coronado is on another level. It's quality and not just quantity that you can expect at the Historic Crown Room Buffet. 

Turkey carving station

On-sight garden grows fresh herbs and vegetables for the hotel restaurants. 

P  L  A  Y

Anytime is a great time for visiting The Del, but there's something extra special about staying there during the holiday season. From Thanksgiving until New Year's Day, The DELights  holiday experience makes you feel like you're transported into a winter wonderland of illumination. Snow falls as a giant holiday light display illuminates the Garden Patio and historic balconies. In the month of December, carolers serenade you with holiday songs. By the beach is a spectacular ice rink. Skating by the Sea is as amazing as it sounds. 

For families there's always something to do like gingerbread house workshops lead by Pastry Chef Daphne, and story time with Mrs. Claus. Bike tours around Coronado Island are a fun way to get your mileage in. But if you're looking to relax a bit, take advantage of the world-class spa and that classic pool. There's something really special about Hotel Del Coronado that makes it like no other place  for the Holidays. 

DELights experience in the Garden Patio.

1500 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA 92118

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Special thanks to Hotel del Coronado for collaborating with Hungry in LA. 
As always, the content and opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

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