Here in Los Angeles, we’re pretty chill. Laid back is our Motto. Except when it comes to Award Season. Am I right? Everyone wants in on the fun. While it may not take our fellow female artists seriously, Oscar season is part of our pop-culture, and we all pay attention. From who’s dating who, wearing who, and what everyone is eating, we want to know.
You know why I know this? The Golden Globe awards created a Buzz Worthy Plant Based Menu that received just as much buzz as Michelle Williams’ “Get out and Vote in 2020” speech. Food matters. Table settings matter. Champagne matters, anyone else notice the Moet Chandon placement in front of every celebrity shot?
So, from casual to chic we know that, what you wear, to what you eat, creates a memorable vibe when entertaining.
But it’s more than just golden star party streamers and fake Oscar statue party favors…or is it?
Well, one thing for certain is hosting a dinner party shouldn’t be stressful. It’s the exact opposite of the end goal. What’s the end goal?
A good time! Of course, duh.
Part of that good time includes a relaxed vibe from the host and in ambiance.
Yes, the food has to be great. But it doesn’t have to be fancy. Yes, there should be free flowing libations. Alcoholic or not. And yes, and, this is mui importante amigos, it has to feature something unique to you, your personality, your style. So, yes, there has to be an element of entertainment or the unexpected to it, but it can be as simple as vintage dishes from Grandma Lily or disposable bamboo plates and platters you ordered off Amazon. Boom.
- Theme: Oscar Party, of course, it’s just around the corner, after all. An Oscar bash can range from an intimate gathering of your friends in your cool WeHo pad, overlooking Sunset Plaza, or a full on Hollywood Hills, dress as your favorite Marx Brother, after party….there are no rules…just make it doable.
Theme’s are also fun! Italian al Fresco or Tastes of the South Pacific. Or even, a Sushi station. The trick is to keep a theme dinner party, like a Make-your-own-sushi station, tight. Meaning 4-6 additional guests. If it gets too big, you lose the intimacy of it and of course, space. You want your guests to feel comfortable and not fighting for space at the table. Holiday gatherings? Totally different story.
- Ambiance: We eat first with our eyes. Actually, all or senses, taste, touch, smell, sound; but the very first thing is, what we see. What’s our first impression? What does the room look like when you open the door to welcome your guests? Are candles lit? Is the light dimmed or is it bright? Is there music in the background? Do you have flirty cocktail napkins out with your cheese board? Is there a cheese board? These are the things you want to think about when welcoming company. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just inviting.
- Drinks: Offering your guest a glass of wine, or non-alcoholic libation when they’ve settled, jackets off, or bags placed in a designated room, should be the very next thing they receive. Having a special cocktail or fizzy flavored drink ready as a welcome, sets the mood immediately and it’s totally easy peasy. For the rest of the party a pre-set help yourself drink station for your guests, invites them to collaborate, sets the mood and it’s one less thing you have to worry about. Guests love to help! Let them. When serving wine, have a few bottles open. 1 red, 1 white and/or Rose. Make sure there’s a bucket of ice to keep the white and rose CHILLED….so important. Nothing is worse than warm Rose. Offer Sparkling Water and Flat. Have a different tub of ice out for the drinks. Make sure there’s plenty to drink, especially on a warm day. If you’re guests brought a bottle of wine, offer to open it. It’s so important to make sure they feel appreciated for their effort and their gift. Even if you hate the wine. Doesn’t matter. You’re always a gracious and generous host. Remember
- Hors D’oeuvres: Keep this simple. Sometimes, and I do this all the time, you’ve made such a gorgeous and bountiful amuse buche people are stuffed before dinner. But, then again, also if you’re like me, you worry it’s not bountiful enough. To keep it simple, create a cheese board of 3 cheeses, some crackers, preserves, nuts, crackers and slices of baguette. And some grapes. That’s really all you need. If dinner is going to be awhile, by all means, go ahead and add savory puff pastry bites, or the something like that. They are so readily found in the freezer section of your groovy neighborhood store, now, it shouldn’t be a hassle. Or make your own!
- Music: Gotta have the tunes playing. Whatever is your jam, have it playing in the background, but, remember, it’s ambient sound, we’re not hosting a rock concert. You don’t want your guests shouting over each other to be heard.
- Conversation: This can be a toughy. As the host, you want to make sure everyone feels comfortable and welcome. Hopefully, your guests are all on the same page and feel the same way. Sometimes there’s a stray, one who can’t remember how to reel it back before the conversation escalates, or worse, becomes inappropriate. Politics, Religion, we’ve been told, are off the table when entertaining. How is that even possible, in the world we live in? If it gets too heated, in any manner, gently distract guests with a “Who’s ready for dessert?” or “another drink or a cup of Joe?” The amazing dessert you made (err, bought. Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me) will simmer down our much loved, but sometimes salty guest. You’re in charge. It’s your party and you must always set the tone; with your overflowing graciousness and hospitality, of course. Always. There’s no room for koo koo at your dinner table. Am I right?
- Holiday Dinner Parties: Can, often be challenging. Let’s take Thanksgiving, for example. The most important thing to decide is this: Is it pot-luck or are you doing it all? Pot-luck? Great. Suzy, wants to bring her famous casserole, that everyone loves? Yes. Please! Aunt Lulu wants to bring her Ambrosia, that no one loves? Yes, please! See, wasn’t that easy. Because, in the end, it doesn’t matter. You want everyone to feel welcome and comfortable. If, however, you want to make everything, you know exactly what you want to serve, and you don’t want no one messing with your vision, (believe me, I get it), then the best answer for the guest who asks: What can I bring? Is the thing you don’t want or have the time to get. Ice? Wine? Kids drinks? Dinner Rolls? Challah? Be specific! If you only want an Italian Rose and not French, then say so, and tell them exactly where they can buy it, cuz’ honey, you and me both know where it’s at and who’s got the best deal. My point is, own who you are, without apology and without hesitancy. Your guests will appreciate you in any of these scenarios, because you were clear, open and gracious.
Are you getting the operative word here is Gracious? Good!
Bonus: Dear Guests, this is for you. Please remember to bring a little token as a host(ess) gift. It can be something like a bottle of wine, flowers, a potted plant or a fanciful little dish. Really, it doesn’t matter. It truly is the thought and the gesture that warms your host’s heart. I once brought this enormous bouquet of organic purple broccoli to my friend’s dinner party, and she loved it! Get creative. You can do this!
Pick up the Damn Phone: Furthermore, my dear guests, the day after you’ve been invited to someone’s home for a dinner party or any gathering for that matter; call your host to say thank you.
Yes, I didn’t mistype. I mean call. It’s old fashioned. It takes time, 2 minutes; but, it continues this thread of graciousness and hospitality and it’ll make your host feel awesome.
Bonus: You’ll be invited back!
I hope you’ve enjoyed these tips. Please email me with any comments or additions, you think I may have missed.
Till the next time…Bon Appetite!
~ Chef Leza
A native cali girl, chef, writer, connoisseur of art, culture, food, wine and so much more. I’ve been private chef and caterer for the past 10 years, with over 30 years in the food industry.
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Recently, Zuke Oshiro (SoCal’s travel editor) and myself were invited to get a bird’s eye view of the beginnings of something rather grand. Looking out from the 44th floor of the Wells Fargo Tower, we could see not only helio-pads on multiple rooftops, and amazing views of the San Gabriel mountains, but also the auspicious foundations of the future GRAND.
The GRAND, located at the epicenter of Grand Ave’s Arts corridor in DTLA, is designed by 90-year-old, Frank Gehry—the man who revolutionized architecture’s aesthetics. This newest Frank Gehry project is being constructed right across the street from his famous Walt Disney Hall, and this is the first time that Gehry has designed a second building alongside one of his own. Not only that, but a third design is in the works for the Colburn School of Music expansion. That means Los Angeles will boast three Frank Gehry designed buildings in a row. The rest of the dream team signed on to bring this vision to life is: the Rockwell Group, Tara Bernard and Tony Ingrao.
The GRAND will be a dynamic destination for shopping, dining and entertainment, with chef–driven restaurants, and name brand stores— as well as being a paradigm-shifting place to live.
For long-term residents there’s “The Grand Residential Tower”—39 stories boasting 436 residences of which 323 are luxury apartments and 113 are ultra-reserve collection. If all this sounds very luxurious it’s because it is. There’s a swimming pool over-looking the Walt Disney Hall, stunning BBQ areas, 24-hour concierge, 24-hour valet parking, plus a dog sitting facility where you furry friends will be well looked after if you need to go out of town.
For short-term guests, there’s the 20-story, 309 room, Equinox Hotel. This is the third hotel for the luxury fitness company that touts “high performance living” and offers exceptional health and wellness for their guests. Like their flagship hotel in NY, the Grand Equinox will focus on three core concepts: movement, nutrition and regeneration. In line with these principles, there’s a state of the art gym, a pool deck on the 7th floor, restaurants with top chefs (who take your dietary needs to heart), and regeneration? Well, that’s all about getting the perfect night’s sleep. Due to extensive sleep research, Equinox Hotel rooms come equipped with a button you press to hit “sleep mode”. This means your room darkens to zero light, the acoustics bring you noise-free nights, and since apparently the best temperature to sleep in is 66 degrees, your room will stay at that temp for the night (if you so choose).
The Grand Ave Arts Corridor is already home to: MOCA, the Walt Disney Hall, the Broad, The Colburn School of Music and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. In fact, there are more performing arts venues in a 2 block radius than anywhere else in the US.
At the hub of the Grand Ave Arts Corridor, located within walking distance to eight different entertainment and cultural venues, the GRAND aims to fully support the world-class Los Angeles’s performing arts and cultural scene by offering free, curated performance events, multiple public programs and plan on hosting permanent and temporary art installations, too.
The pedestrian walkway and public plaza (which Gehry calls the Urban Room) will have green spaces (using rainwater collection for irrigation purposes), and outdoor benches set amongst olive trees and tranquility. Having incorporated sustainable and innovative features, The GRAND exceeds energy efficiency requirements and further offers guests EV charging stations, on demand EV car sharing, and 150 bicycle parking spaces. The GRAND is also accessible from the Civic Center/Grand Park Metro Rail station, plus there’s a new Grand Ave Arts Station being built—set to open in 2021. There’s even talk of a free Streetcar that will service the DTLA area.
Lastly, an oval outdoor bar at the epicenter of the towers–suspended between floors with an exotic sculpture overhead, promises to be a huge attraction. My favorite thing is that on special occasions, the GRAND will project images and videos of the LA Phil onto the actual Walt Disney Hall itself. Imagine sitting in that oval bar on NYE watching fireworks in the sky while symphonies sweep across the beautiful Walt Disney Hall building. I want to do that. Okay, so when will all this be ready? Roughly, at the end of 2021. I believe the GRAND will most certainly live up to its name.
Rendered photos courtesy of “Red Leaf, New York”.
A time-lapse video of The Grand’s first concrete foundation pour, in which 13,478 cubic yards of concrete were poured into the foundation of The Grand’s 39-story residential tower. The first pour took place this summer.
The Art Of Winter Outerwear In A Warmer ClimateSoCal has its own style
The holidays are here! It's time to start stuffing the stockings, or putting presents under the Christmas tree. This year, however, holiday shopping may be a little crazier than it usually is. The National Retail Federation reveals that Americans are willing to shell out 4% more on holiday shopping. Additionally, they project that holiday retail sales will be up by nearly $4 billion. It's safe to say that you can expect a crazy number of holiday shoppers who'll make it difficult to brave the crowds at the mall, which is why lifestyle writer Sheena Dizon of Pretty Me recommends shopping online where possible. This way, not only will you get to do some extra research on your gifts, but maybe even snag a few discounts as well. Of course, planning early is the key to getting your holiday shopping done right whether it's online or at the mall. That said, here's our carefully curated guide for your gift-giving adventure.By Juliet Olson
FOR MOM From exerting energy to clean up your room after leaving it in chaos to giving up precious hours of sleep just to help you go to bed when you were afraid of the dark, there’s no question that your mom has made the most meaningful sacrifices for you. This is why you should treat her to some rest and relaxation with an electronic massager like this heated pillow from MaxKare that’s highly recommended on The Strategist.
Credit: Pacific Shaving Company
FOR DAD If there’s anyone you can trust for advice or words of wisdom, it’s your good ol’ dad. And although hearing his stories or life lessons from his youth is a delight, you can introduce him to a new way of shaving that’s both efficient and single-use. He’ll surely ditch his old razor for the ultra-cool Single-Use Shaving Cream Minis from the Pacific Shaving Company. Our senior editor Joshua J Pinkay shares that these are pods of shaving cream enclosed in a single-dose water-soluble container.
(Retail: starts at $7.99)
FOR SOMEONE SPECIAL If there’s someone near and dear to your heart, you can make their holidays extra magical this year by surprising him or her with a timeless turntable like Audio-Technica’s AT-LP60. What makes this a special present is that the two of you can build a collection of vinyl records of your favorite albums. Or, if you’re feeling extra saccharine, you can make it a holiday tradition to dance together to some holiday tunes playing on the turntable.
FOR THE BOSS When it comes to work, your boss is more than just someone who delegates tasks to you, as he or she helps you take the necessary steps to go further in your career. You can express your gratitude for the guidance by gifting them a smart mug. The days of leaders at the workplace tend to be occupied as they go from one task to another, which is why having a smart mug like Ember’s that’s suggested by Food & Wine’s associate digital editor Megan Soll is a great gift idea. A smart mug can do a world of good for their busy workdays, since it keeps his or her drink at the preferred temperature no matter how many times they walk around the office.