Quick Hits: Malibu Cafe

Malibu Cafe
327 Latigo Canyon Road
Malibu, CA 90265

Monday: Closed; Tuesday-Saturday: 11:30 AM – 10 PM; Sunday: 10 AM – 9 PM

Malibu Cafe is one of the more unique brunch locations I’ve had the pleasure of visiting.  Located on the Calamigos Ranch, this venue is a bit off the beaten path so you’ll need to plan a bit to get there unless you live in the Malibu/Thousand Oaks area.   The restaurant is mainly all outdoors and looks very much like an adult playground.  Besides the numerous tables for dining there are activities set up such as a giant chess board, outdoor bowling alley, giant Jenga, Cornhole, paddle boats and rowboats, and of course several bars.

This place is a perfect afternoon spot for big groups if the weather is nice out (and let’s be real, SoCal weather is pretty much always nice).  I’ve been told at night the garden lighting in all the trees light up and make for a really cute bistro feel.  The food overall was pretty good, the Mac and Cheese balls were fantastic, but the service could use a little work.  The waiters were very polite and personable, but they took a long time to get us basic things like napkins, water and our check (in their defense they said the credit card machine was down).  Luckily, we wanted to just hang out outside and enjoy the weather anyways so it wasn’t as much of a bother.

Video: Gay Pride Parade, San Francisco

Fresh off the Supreme Court ruling in support of same-sex marriage, the annual Pride Parade in San Francisco just so happened to be slated the same weekend that we were there.  Needless to say it was a huge celebration; I really don’t think I’ve been around so many happy people (straight, gay, and whatever the person wearing the giant penis was) in one mass grouping like that before.

Unsurprisingly, the parade was loud, colorful, “fabulous”, hopeful…you name it, and that’s what the parade was.   And it was long too — it started at 10:30 in the morning and wrapped up at 5:00.  We only had so much energy for a few hours of the spectacle, but it was more than enough to get me exhausted.  By the end I was covered in Mardi Gras beads and had about 6 different rainbow colored “Livestrong” wristbands on my arms. It was a sight to see and I’m really glad I got to experience it.

The Pride Parade has to be seen more than told so please enjoy some of the videos and pictures from the event.

Silver Lake, Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles is an interesting place to visit because unlike most traditional cities in the U.S., you have a pretty lengthy drive on the highway to get from area to area.  No quick hop on the metro or nice walk along the river in this city.

So on my past trip to L.A., I extended my visit a bit to stay with some friends in the area of Silver Lake.  Most tourists probably wouldn’t come to see Silver Lake usually; its much more of a residential area for the more alternative crowd.  However if you do happen upon this area, there is a bit to offer, most of which is on Sunset Blvd.

A couple places for brunch

Millie’s Cafe

Probably my favorite of the two brunch places I went to, Millie’s has a really, really extensive menu.  With a lot of outdoor sidewalk seating, this little cafe is a good place to have some good ol’ comfort food while watching the numerous, sunglasses wearing locals stroll on by.  I had the healthy green burrito (very Southern Californian of me right?) that was made of egg whites, guacamole and spinach and comes with a side of fresh fruit.  It was enormous, and actually quite delicious for the “healthy” option.  I’d recommend it, however if you do need the grease and goodness of bacon, sausage, french toast, pancakes etc., don’t worry, they have all that too.  I’ll probably go back and have that when I’m not on a health kick.

Sidewalk seating at Millie’s


For a quieter alternative down the street, give Local a try.  The ambiance is a bit calmer, and their menu is not as extensive.  That being said, for a lazy Sunday type place, Local fits the billing.  There isn’t really any sidewalk seating, but their covered patio is large.

The quieter alternative to Millie’s


Thirsty Crow

Silver Lake, from what I saw, doesn’t seem to be a “going out” type of area, but there are a few places to grab drinks and have a good time.  The Thirsty Crow in particular is quite good.  It’s a very divey, dark place with a speakeasy, candlelit vibe.  Despite its darkness, the place is actually quite vibrant with some great Motown music playing the night I was there.  Outside a chef grills up hamburgers to order while listening to Michael Jackson.  And if you like whisky, THIS is your place.  The whisky list is extensive and you should be able to find one to your liking.

Things to do

Griffith Observatory

Not far from Silver Lake is the Griffith Observatory (as seen in numerous movies including Rebel Without a Cause and The Terminator).  Located at the top of a steep mountain, those of you looking to break a little sweat on your trip should try hiking to the top.  You should be in relatively good shape if you want to try the hike, and be sure to bring water, hats, sunscreen, etc. because there is practically no shade on the trail.  I’d say the hike was very similar to hiking up Masada.  When you get to the top, you can enjoy the exhibits inside the Observatory and there’s a $7 planetarium show that is the perfect recipe for the post-climb collapse.


Quick Hits – The Wayfarer, Santa Barbara

I’m going to take a break from the Australia trip to do a quick hit on Santa Barbara.  Santa Barbara is a great little city with a fun, vibrant wine scene.  We took an excursion out there for the weekend during a work trip to L.A. and had the opportunity to stay in one of Santa Barbara’s newest hotels — the trendy, the fun, The Wayfarer.

I’ll say this off the bat, The Wayfarer is not the cheapest place you’ll stay.  Full disclosure, we were able to get a great rate for a room because our friend’s husband works for Pacifica Hotels, the company that manages The Wayfarer.  Now that being said, you will be able to find a full range of rates due to the fact that it’s technically a hostel.  It’s a very, very swanky hostel, but still technically a hostel.  Because of this, you’ll be able to get a bed in a male only/female only dorm for only $50 a night.  But if you want a private room, it’ll cost more depending on when you stay.

From everything I saw, it’s worth the price no matter what way you want to stay there.  The location is fantastic.  You’re within walking distance of the beach, wineries and the shitshow that is State Street.  The rooms are brand new, and in some of them there’s a great murphy bed that comes out from above the king size bed, making it look like a bunk bed/cruise ship cabin.  Yes, I was the overgrown child who got to camp out on it.  There rooms also come with free wi-fi and flat screen HD TVs.

The pool area is small, but comfortable enough.  There is also a communal kitchen where each room gets their own pantry space with plenty of kitchenware for everyone to use.  In the common area, you’ll find giant sized Jenga and Connect Four.  Free breakfast is available every morning as well.

Places to go around The Wayfarer?  Check out The Lark for the Hand Rolled Pappardelle with Crispy Braised Lamb.  For brunch, The Brewhouse is the only place that offers brunch on Saturdays as well as Sundays.  The brunch area looks a little like a mess, but don’t be scared off.  The food is actually quite good and the chefs make pretty much made-to-order anything.  For wine, head out to Kunin Wines for a tasting where they offer a Classic Tasting and a Syrah Tasting.  You can also check out O’Malley’s for a good regular bar scene, and the Wildcat if you really want to end your night like you’re still a 20-year-old UC-Santa Barbara student (The Wildcat I don’t exactly “recommend”, but it you’re in that place where you want to be that way, well, then it’s there…).

In the end, with the beautiful 80 degree temps and sunny weather, there wasn’t really anything that you could do in Santa Barbara that’d be wrong.

Quick Hits – Newport Channel Inn

Newport Channel Inn
6030 W. Coast Hwy
Newport Beach, CA 92663

During one of my work trips to the west coast, I had a chance to partake in a little beach time on the weekend.  My friend and I decided to head down to Newport Beach to get away from the hustle and bustle of downtown LA.  My friend found the Newport Channel Inn for the night we stayed.  It’s located about a quick 5-minute walk from the beach and was a great deal at $159 a night (Note: This was the AAA rate, it would have been $169 otherwise.  Prices do vary as well depending on the weekend).

For a little motel on the side of the road, this little inn is a great value and a very good option if you’re staying in the area.  As I mentioned before the walk to the beach is 5 minutes, and you’re a 15 minute drive or less to the mall, Crystal Cove State Park, and plenty of restaurants.

Not only is the place in a good location, the staff there is very friendly (I’m pretty sure it’s family run).  The inn offers beach towels, chairs, and boogie boards for the guests and the staff are more than willing to help with any needs you may have.  For example, I lost my cell phone charger and went to the front to see if there was a Radio Shack nearby.  There was one which the staff member told me about, but before I went, he went to the back and came back with a box of chargers and said that I could have any one of them if they fit (A LOT of people leave behind their chargers apparently).

The one knock I have on the place is that the A/C (at least in the room that we stayed in) points right at the bed which is a tad uncomfortable.  So you’re either super hot, or have a cold blast in your face.  Regardless, I still recommend this place as a good value stay if you’re at Newport Beach.  It’s nothing special, but the location and staff make it worth it.

Los Angeles, CA highlights

Twice a year my company holds a sales meeting out near the headquarters in Thousand Oaks, CA.  In meetings past, the location has been in places like Santa Monica or San Diego, but it’s always around the southern California area giving many of us remote East Coasters and Midwesterners a chance to see the sunny West Coast on our company’s dime.

Obviously, this is a work trip so much of the time is spent in conference rooms, but my company does do its best to treat their employees well and take us out for group activities.   And usually after the meetings, most of us take the weekend to enjoy being on the west coast for a little vacation.  Here’s a recap of a few of the highlights during that trip.

Westlake Village Inn – Our meetings were held at the hotel where we all stayed.  Located in Westlake Village, this resort isn’t really located in any sort of “going out” type area, but is ideal for those looking to get away and enjoy the southern California weather in peace.  Because of the size of the resort and the picturesque pond it surrounds, the hotel is a great location for meetings or weddings (my co-worker’s aunt being one such bride).   The rooms are extremely comfy, each with a little deck to sit out on and they make you feel like you’re crashing at a rich friend’s summer home.  FYI – my deck light was really bright which flooded into the room at night – keep that in mind for you light sleepers.

The resort is also adjacent to a golf course for those looking to play a few holes (and was right outside the meeting room window for all of us to jealously look out onto).  Also, Bogie’s bar in the resort  apparently is the hot place to be on weekend nights, but since our meeting was during the week I can’t confirm whether or not that’s actually true.  The bar itself though was pretty fun when we were there and has a lot of outdoor seating.  And finally, the pool and gym are both a little small, which is surprising considering how much nicer the rest of the resort is.

View from my balcony at Westlake Village Inn

While the food was actually quite good at the resort, there are a slew of restaurants within a few miles of the resort.  A couple that I’d recommend are :

Cisco’s, a local mexican chain with fantastic Samuel Adams Beer Battered fish tacos and massive margaritas.
Boccacio’s, which is situated on Westlake lake and has a tremedous view of the Santa Monica mountains.   I would highly recommend the Chilean Sea Bass.

Sunstone Winery – Located in Santa Ynez, CA, this was the first of many wineries I would visit in the days to come (stay tuned).  Fans of the movie Sideways will recognize this area as the setting of Paul Giamatti and Thomas Hayden Church’s escapades.  And while the vineyard at Sunstone was beautiful and the wine tasty, the 2 hour drive from L.A. only makes the venue worth a visit if you’re in L.A. for an extended period of time and if it’s a nice enough day to enjoy the coastal drive up.  If you do decide to visit, the tour is very informative and the tasting room at the end allows you to sample several of their vintages and olive oils – be sure to try the garlic olive oil.

The Beverly Hilton Hotel – Renown for hosting the Golden Globe Awards and more recently, the site of the death of singer Whitney Houston, the Beverly Hilton Hotel has a long history of hosting the rich and famous (myself included).  Located at the heart of Beverly Hills, the hotel itself surprisingly seems rather old in some ways, but also new in others.  The resort is the type that has a weird Rat Pack feel to it, but also is the type that has TVs in the bathroom.  Our room was located very conveniently by the pool (literally, we could walk out of our room and the pool was four yards in front of us), and we took advantage of this by going for late night swims at 2-3 in the morning that the staff didn’t seem to mind.

TMZ Hollywood Tour– I’m not a TMZ fan, I’ve only seen parts of it on parodies such as The Soup.  But when our friend suggested we go on TMZ’s bus tour (he’s a big TMZ fan), I decided to roll with the punches and go with it.  In actuality, the 2 hour bus tour starting at Mann’s Chinese Theater was quite entertaining and gives you a pretty good “paparazzi’s” eye of Hollywood.

Don’t go on this thinking you’ll see huge celebrity houses in Beverly Hills.  Rather, you’ll go down Rodeo Drive to see million dollar cars and stores, drive by Beverly Hills Police HQ and the comedy club where Kramer famously dropped the “N” word over and over again.  You’ll also see notorious hotels (where Cher and Elton John own the top floors), sidewalks where naughtiness occured (the curb where Hugh Grant got caught), and restaurants where celebrities frequent (we apparently just missed Halle Barry at one of her favorites).  It’s a trashy tour at best, but I can’t say that I wasn’t throughly amused throughout the ride.

Recognize the hotel? It’s the one from Pretty Woman.

Jimmy Kimmel Live – Probably one of the top experiences of the summer was being able to sit in the audience during the taping of Jimmy Kimmel Live.  One of my co-workers was able to get a few of us tickets through an old college friend of hers who works at the show.  We definitely let the feeling sink in as we walked past the crowds waiting in line outside for tickets and into the backdoor “Green Room” entrance.  We were all hoping that we might get a glimpse of the evening’s guests, Jennifer Garner (Alias) or Paul Scheer (The League) back there, but we weren’t that lucky.  After downing a couple free beers, they escorted us into the studio where we were entertained by a comedian who gave away t-shirts for various different reasons.  The studio itself was shockingly smaller than how it looks on television and when Kimmel came out to do his stand up routine at the beginning, he’s practically in the front row.  Obviously, his TV personality isn’t going to be the same as his off camera personality, but Kimmel was certainly friendly enough to the crowd in-between the recordings and entertained us with back and forth banter between him, the band, and Guillermo (his famous Latino sidekick).

No pictures allowed inside, so this is us outside getting into the Green Room. No Guillermo at the door unfortunately.

We were lucky enough to have crowd pleasing guests in Jennifer Garner (who is as hot in person as on TV by the way) and Paul Scheer, so the crowd’s laughter didn’t need to be forced.  The musical guest was The Fixx, who before that night I had not heard of and my guess is most of the crowd hadn’t either, so we were strongly told to cheer louder (and we even had to re-tape on of the songs because the audience wasn’t into it enough).  Funny part was that when we watched it later that night, they only showed one of three songs that they sung, and not the one that they re-sang.  It was a great experience overall and certainly made the Los Angeles experience that much more authentic.

On a final side note: I was surprised at how much seedier Hollywood was than I thought.  Yes, the Hollywood Walk of Fame is pretty cool to see, but the sidewalks were packed with the homeless, drunks and solicitors.  Definitely not a place where I’d spend a lot of time, but glad I saw it to say I did.

Up next: We jumped in a car and headed our way to Las Vegas.

My season of traveling Part I – San Diego, CA, Rochester, NY and Chattanooga, TN

Hello friends and people, I’m back.  Sorry I’ve been off the grid for a while, it’s been a busy season at work and things have just started to wind down.  Of course my sales season wouldn’t have been complete without a little work travel and I’m here to give you a quick recap of where I’ve been over the past few months.  I won’t get too detailed because in all honesty many of the work trips required a lot of actual working so there’s not a whole lot to write about when you’re spending most of your time at Hampton Inns.  But I can give you a few highlights.

San Diego, CA
U.S.S. Midway Museum
Price of Admission: $18 Adults, $15 Senior Citizens, $10 Retired Military and Children (online rates are a dollar cheaper)

San Diego, CA probably gets the prize for best weather all year long in the U.S.  When I was there in January, it was a nice and warm low-80 degrees with clear skies – and from what I understand it’s always like that.  Most of my time in CA was spent at a conference so I didn’t get to the beach, but we were in the Gaslight District which is a vibrant bar and nightlife scene.   Aside, from all the great bars and restaurants one can try out in San Diego (several of which my company treated us to), it’s worth a walk down to the shore and going on board the U.S.S. Midway.  Yes, I’ve mentioned the ship before, but I think it’s worth getting more in-depth.  It’s much more than just a walk around the deck and seeing a few of the planes.  The museum gives you a look inside all the intricate parts of the aircraft carrier and gives you not just a lesson about the ship’s role in U.S. Navy history, but a real sense of what it was like for the common sailor on-board (you can walk through the bunks, laundry room, mess hall, everywhere).  Don’t miss a chance to also sit in several of the fighters jets and helicopters that they have on display or participate in a flight simulator dogfight with your friends.  If you have time, go and chat with one of the several veterans on board who volunteer to tell you their stories – they’re fascinating and many of them are pretty funny guys.

Rochester, NY
Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

When I asked around about places to go to eat while in Rochester, NY, I heard from three separate people to check out Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.  Now, admittedly I thought the place was some local hot spot (with a really random name), but when I showed up I realized that it was a chain.  So while I was a little disappointed, it’s not a huge chain mind you (the other locations are in New York City, Syracuse, New Jersey, and Troy, NY).  Still, I had no other leads of places to try so I gave it a go.  I will say that I was pleasantly surprised.  The atmosphere had a Applebee’s made over by a biker gang, but the crowd was a mix of all types.  The beer list was impressive, with several local northern NY brews.  The food and service was top notch as well.  My waitress was friendly, fast, and knew to be available but not be overbearing.  I gave the “Tres Hombres” combination a try and that consisted of pork, brisket and 1/4 rack of ribs, cornbread and two sides – I went with mac and cheese and mashed potatoes.  There was a LOT of food – but it was well worth the calories (you can try the smaller “Tres Ninos” combo if you’re not as hungry).  The different BBQ sauces that were on the table really hit the spot, but my two favorites were there Slathering Sauce and the Wango Tango Habenero (this stuff was sweet and super spicy).  The meats all melted in your mouth, but I’ll say that the ribs were probably the best of the three.  The mac and cheese was also a stand out and I would tell anyone that one of the sides must be that (though one could argue that the gravy that came with the potatoes made that side dish better).  I could certainly see how this place, with his comfort food and warm, friendly atmosphere is popular spot on cold winter days in Rochester.  Grade: B

Chattanooga, TN
Ruby Falls
Price of Admission: $17.95 for adults, $9.95 for children under 12 (babies free, but I probably wouldn’t bring a baby)

On my flight into Chattanooga, TN, I sat next to a local lawyer who gave me some leads on how to spend a few free hours in the city.  He, like most of the people that I met from Chattanooga, had a sort of “really, this place is much nicer that you might think” way of talking.  I’ll say this much – I probably wouldn’t target Chattanooga as a place to go out of my way to visit.  BUT I will also say that it is a quaint little town with some pretty interesting things to see if you’re there for a couple days.  And from what I understand and saw for myself, it’s a great place for the outdoorsy types.  I didn’t try it myself, but apparently hang gliding is one of the big hobbies for the folks in Chattanooga.  But don’t bother with going to the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, unless you happen to be down that way. But if you do happen to be down that way and see the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, stop into The Terminal Brewhouse.  They had some great drafts and one of the better BBQ Chicken pizzas I’ve ever had.

One of the highlights for me was a side trip to Ruby Falls.  It’s clearly one of the main tourist attractions (the other being Rock City) and the city lets you know it with the 247 or something billboards I saw on the highways directing visitors to see check it out (that was an exaggeration, but it was a s**tload).   The drive to Ruby Falls is quick from downtown Chattanooga and when I arrived, I had no idea that Ruby Falls wasn’t really outdoors!  Apparently, the waterfall that’s advertised is actually the country’s tallest underground waterfall.  Now I’m not claustrophobic, but for you folks that are keep this in mind.   To see the Ruby Falls, you have to take an elevator ride 1120 feet underground into a very tight, winding cave.  If you’re okay with that, then you’re good to go.  So a group of us took the elevator down to the dark cavern and in order to get to the waterfall, the guide takes you through some really neat tunnels with extraordinary rock formations.  Our guide, Andy, gave us a little history and while his smart-ass humor was annoying at first, after a while it became more tolerable and by the end you couldn’t help but be amused by his personality.  When we got to the cave with the waterfall, it’s pitch black and pretty creepy.  There’s a little dramatic audio presentation to get you pumped up, and then the lights come on and Voila!  I’ll say, I was pretty awe-struck by the waterfall when I saw it.  They did a really good job with the lighting and making the water look like falling crystals.  It was quite…majestic (for some reason I really can’t think of a better word that isn’t as cheesy).  As you walk around and underneath the waterfall itself, you have to take a look up at the water coming down.  You’ll get a little wet, but it’s worth the sight.  It’s almost like you’re looking at the stars while traveling at warp speed, Star Trek style.  So if you’re ever in Chattanooga for any weird reason, give the Ruby Falls a few hours of your time.

A couple of places to eat in San Diego

So, taking a little break from the Egypt talk, I was recently in San Diego a few days after my Arabian adventure.  Although it was a work trip, my colleagues and I were able to see some of the sights of the town.  I won’t talk about seeing the things that most people visiting San Diego would see (San Diego Zoo, U.S.S. Midway, which is AWESOME by the way, etc)  even though all those sights are very well worth checking out.  I’d just like to quickly mention a couple places to eat if you’re out and about downtown.

The first place is Currant American Brasserie.   This restaurant is just south of the Gaslamp District (a fantastic bar and restaurant scene in San Diego), near Petco Park.  The menu is simple; it has your typical sandwiches, salads, and deserts.  There is also a pretty good brunch deal with $8 all you can drink mimosas.  We ate on the outdoor patio, so I didn’t get a real good look on the inside, but when I went in to use the restroom, the interior had a sort of New Orleans architectural style.

Despite the vanilla choices on the menu, the food was extremely good.  We started off with an appetizer of taters tots with a spicy habanero ketchup.  The tater tots were nice and crispy on the outside, but the inside was more buttery mashed potatoes than the shredded potato Napoleon Dynamite/Ore Ida style tater tots.   Three of the four of our group all ordered the Chicken Club sandwich.  I’d have to think really hard to come up with a place that made a better chicken sandwich.  The chicken was juicy and grilled to perfection and was smothered with a chipotle aioli that gave it a nice chili-garlic taste.  The key though was the avocado.   Southern California is known for the fruit and the sandwich had a generous heaping of it.  And finally the french fries were the perfect compliment to the sandwich.  They were pretty close to the McDonald’s style fries, but with a nice thyme seasoning.  Currant is a great place to eat if you want to get a bite to eat without having to have to deal with the hustle and bustle of Gaslamp, but still want to be close enough to head to that area for a drink afterward.

140 West Broadway
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 702-6309

Open Weekdays 11:30am-12am; Weekends 9am-12am

The second place I’d recommend checking out is Fillipi’s Pizza Grotto.  From what I understand, this restaurant now has several branches, but the original is in the Little Italy district of San Diego.  The Little Italy district’s main road is India Street (not sure how that happened) which is where Fillipi’s is located.  From the outside, the restaurant doesn’t look like much, especially being next to the shi-shier venues on the main drag.  In fact, we walked right by the main entrance at first because there were some local, old Italian guys sitting outside the market which makes up the front of the restaurant; its very a nonchalant looking entry way.  Once we went it, and walked through the small little market, we were seated in the back.

The restaurant is very much an Italian mom and pop restaurant.  Nothing fancy, nothing flashy.  The menu was really, really simple – pizzas, pastas, soups, and salads and that was it.  The lamanted white menu didn’t even have any descriptions or many varieties of pizza and pasta.  The menu simplicity actually admittedly made me not expect much from our meal for some reason.  But once we took a bite into our food, there was nothing cheap about it.  The pizza I ordered was excellent.  The crust had a little more thickness than what you’d expect from a New York style slice, but was nice and crispy unlike a Naples style pizza (where the sauce and cheese sometimes makes the crust soggier).  The pizza was delicious; and that was the least impressive dish on the table.  The pastas were by far the favorite of the group.  The homemade pasta on all the pasta dishes tasted really fresh (if you haven’t had fresh/homemade pasta, go to a local Italian store or even Whole Foods and get the pasta from the refrigerated aisle.  You’ll be able to tell the difference immediately from the raw, uncooked box pasta you get normally).  The linguine with clams had a nice creamy taste, and the bits of clam weren’t too overbearing on the dish.  The bolognese sauce on the ricotta lasagna actually melted in your mouth with savoriness was easily my favorite of the entire meal.  And you get a good amount of food.  Admittedly the portions aren’t as big as a Maggiano’s or Buca di Pepo chain size, but be prepared to share.

Now I’ll get back to Egypt in the next post.