Yoga & Martinis

Shade Boutique Hotel in Manhattan Beach was my home away from home in California and I feel like I could have happily stayed there forever. I truly mean that. When I was a teenager the most glamorous life I could imagine, and would constantly daydream about, was the life of a writer, in a big city, living in a luxury hotel room. I still think I would be incredibly happy living that life, especially since it includes daily maid service.

My dog and I both enjoyed Shade’s perfectly glam roof deck. I loved the morning yoga classes…

And the Nickster enjoyed lounging by the pool, drinking cucumber water and deciding if he should bark at the other guests.

pool dog

The daily, complimentary breakfasts were amazing…

smoked salmon bagel

But the real jewel of this hotel is it’s lobby bar-restaurant, Zinc. This is a cool little spot where you can end the day sipping a craft cocktail, chatting with the bartender and getting to know the other guests. My favourite fellow guests were two sisters from Atlanta. They were drinking wine and laughing every time I saw them and were in town to get a little botox and fillers in Beverly Hills. Just a touch so they could go back home looking “refreshed”.

There were a lot of delicious cocktails at Zinc but my absolute fave was the sweet and cool Cucumber- Pear Martini.

The Drink at Zinc

  • 2 oz. Grey Goose pear vodkamartini
  • 1 oz St. Germain elderflower liqueur
  • one peeled slice of cucumber, muddled in the glass
  • lemon lime juice (organic citrus fruit, agave syrup and water to taste)

Instructions:

  • Muddle cucumber in the bottom of a martini glass
  • Shake (or stir) remaining ingredients with ice
  • Pour over cucumber

Voila! A perfect cocktail.

Oh, and then there was the food…

Shade Hotel

Fishing with Dynamite

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Urban Dictionary – fishing with dynamite: Phrase used to describe anything that can be accomplished easily.

My LA friends were buzzing about a restaurant called Fishing with Dynamite and told me that it was a “must visit” while I was in town. Sue of Birgerbird happened to be one of these friends so we decided that lunch at FWD would be the perfect way to meet up in the offline world.

The morning of our lunch I was flipping through Angeleno magazine and saw that an FWD platter called The Mothershucker had made their top 10 list of dishes to try in LA. A good sign. A little later someone I was chatting with on the beach also told me how amazing the restaurant is and that I had to try their raw scallops. I had never had a raw scallop in my life so I smiled and nodded but thought….maybe.

That afternoon I strolled into the restaurant full of anticipation and I found a cozy, comfy room, full of light and filled with the scent of delicious seafood. The restaurant also had a cute sit down bar area where one of the patrons had brought his parrots in to have a drink with him. I bee-lined to the parrot.

After hanging out with my new parrot friend for awhile, it was time to find my table and Sue and get down to the serious business of eating.

The menu was divided into an old school section of traditional seafood dishes and  a new school section of either unusual items from the ocean or fusion dishes for the adventurous palate. I was craving raw oysters (which are full of anti-aging zinc btw) and feeling adventurous, so it was new school for me. To start, I had sweet, succulent Kusshi oysters from my very own province, BC. Then came the adventure. Apparently sea urchins or “uni” are all the rage in California and our server raved about the dish. So I ordered uni along with the raw scallops my beach friend had recommended. And this is what appeared…

uni and scallops

When I posted this photo on Facebook, my friend Tammy commented. “I saved one of these the other day by helping it back into the ocean. Never did I imagine, at that time, that it could be lunch.” Fair enough. It’s appearance does not make you immediately think “Food!”

So, the scallops were sublime with a ceviche-like flavour and the urchin was very interesting with both a buttery texture and seafood flavour. Definitely worth a try if you’re looking for a new taste sensation.

Lunch at FWD was everything I had hoped it would be. A lovely atmosphere, delicious, exotic seafood and a chance to get to know a very lovely and talented online friend in real life. What more could I ask for?

Fishing with Dynamite

1148 Manhattan Avenue Manhattan Beach CA 90266 – 310.893.6299

 

El Matador Beach, Malibu

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malibu

 We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, we are going back from whence we came. – JFK

beach

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 There is a magic about the sea. People are drawn to it. People want to love by it, swim in it, play in it, look at it. It is a living thing that is as unpredictable as a great stage actor. – Cecelia Ahern

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california cave

 I’m always happy when I’m surrounded by water, I think I’m a mermaid or I was a mermaid.

The ocean makes me feel really small and it makes me put my whole life into perspective… it humbles you and makes you feel almost like you’ve been baptized. I feel born again when I get out of the ocean. – Beyoncé

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cali beach

Project Save our Surf

California

My little furry sidekick and I just got back from a week of sun, sand and surf in California.

It was just what I needed with a ton of beach time, listening to the waves and feeling the amazing power of the ocean, a couple of days in Malibu with my friend, Tammy, and a lot of eating and drinking (I had my must-visit restaurants and farmer’s markets all lined up). I met up with one of my favourite food bloggers, Sue of Birgerbird, for lunch. And I even spotted Gene Simmons of Kiss, filming an episode of Family Jewels on the rooftop patio of my hotel. Since Kiss was the first rock concert I ever saw, when I was 14, I was maybe a little overly excited to see this now reality tv star.

Another thing I did on this trip was continue to unplug from my beloved Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Instagram, and Pinterest (whew!) by leaving my laptop at home. Although I could still access my social media loves from time to time via my iphone, I was hardly online at all for the whole vacation and it felt amazing, like a true break. I spent my down time reading (no kindle, just old fashioned books) and writing (old school, with a pen and paper journal) and daydreaming on my balcony, watching the waves of the Pacific crash against the shore.

So, now I’m back home sweet home with a bunch of photos, a recipe or two and a few stories to tell…

pacific

the pier

sand in your toes

pink hibiscus

Beast the chihuahua

El Matador Beach Malibu

Bitchin’ Bananas

It’s Throwback Thursday and I’m California dreaming again…about frozen bananas.

photo (6)The first time I tasted a frozen banana was in Balboa Island, Orange County about four years ago. I was a little obsessed with “The Real Housewives of Orange County” at that time (yes, embarrassing but true), so visiting Orange County (the home of my dysfunctional, slightly alcoholic, drama queen housewives) was super exciting for me.  I loved being in their neighborhood and secretly hoped my friend Tammy and I would run into one as we toured around the OC.

But, I digress. I’m supposed to be writing about bananas, not housewives….

The astonishingly delicious frozen banana I had on Balboa Island was dipped in a sweet, milk chocolate and covered in fluourescently bright candy and chopped walnuts. It was sublime. “How do we not have these in Canada?”, I thought as I chowed down on my banana while soaking up the California sun.

Lately frozen bananas have been dancing in my mind again and I’ve been experimenting with a healthy, clean, vegan version of the treat I discovered in Southern California.

So, below is the recipe I concocted to duplicate all of the frozen banana yumminess but without all of the bad stuff:

 Laurel’s Bitchin’ Bananas

  • two large bananas
  • raw cashew butter
  • a hunk of 80% dark chocolate

Slice the bananas into .5 inch little circles, put a dollop of cashew butter in between two slices, like an oreo cookie and place in freezer.

While the banana chunks are freezing, heat the dark chocolate on a double boiler and when it starts to lightly bubble, dip the cashew banana chunks in the hot chocolate. Place back in freezer.

bitchin bananas

Serve frozen, just out of the freezer.

Bet you can’t eat just one.

Malibu Love

http://wheresmybackpack.com/2014/03/21/travel-theme-pink/

The current travel theme is pretty pink and since it’s Throwback Thursday too, I’m posting a few photos from a 2011 trip to California.

The pink part:  My friend Tammy and I lounging on a pink striped beach blanket at Zuma Beach, watching the waves roll in and a family of dolphins swim by.

More pink…We decide to take a break from the ocean waves and venture into town for an unbelievable fuchsia-coloured smoothie, made with nothing but freshly blended watermelons. Who knew that something so simple could be so delicious? Even my dog wants in on the action.

The travel part: Malibu. One of my favourite places. Ever. A corner of the world where I’m so insanely happy just sitting on the beach, listening to the waves and watching cute surfer dudes head to the ocean.