As a successful financial consultant, Sharlena Fong spent her days wearing buttoned-up business attire and roaming New York City's World Financial Center. Then came September 11, 2001. Her professional life shaken and her priorities reorganized, she said goodbye to the world of finance, trading her power suits for a chef’s toque. After finishing culinary school and working under experienced chefs at Eleven Madison Park and Bouchon Bakery in New York City, Fong teamed up with James Gonzalez and Dennis Hunter in 2007 to open Semi Sweet Bakery in Los Angeles. Today, they all continue to work together with the same goal in mind: morphing frowns into grins with the help of fresh-baked pastries, cookies, and cakes. Hunter explains it best on the shop’s website: "No matter how bad someone's day is, no matter how much heartache someone may be going through, I get to give them a slice of cake or a piece of pastry made with love, and they smile!"
Love is not the only ingredient in their baked goods, however. Inspired by his training under Chef Monica May at Nickel Diner, Chef Gonzalez believes in using local, sustainable ingredients, making everything in-house and from scratch all while balancing each morsel’s delicate flavor profile. In the kitchen each day, chefs bake their signature ding a lings in sweet flavors such as hazelnut crunch and red velvet alongside savory empanadas stuffed with mushroom and short rib. Samoa macaroons packed with coconut, chocolate, and caramel sidle up to mugs of drip coffee and loose-leaf tea from SerendipiTe. The shop also trades in larger treats: nine-inch cakes in flavors such as strawberry three ways with jam and lemon curd fly out the door for surprise birthday parties or surprise I-ate-your-birthday-cake-in-the-car parties.
Owner and multicertified aesthetician Jennifer Woehle helms Beau Ideal House of Beauty's cadre of licensed pulchritude bolsterers, performing spa services that range from dramatic eyelash extensions to facials and body scrubs. A lineup of facials refurbishes weary façades, tailoring treatments to skin types in order to fight such visage blemishers as bacteria, dryness, and meringue-pie projectiles. Additionally, custom eyelash extensions, applied by a team of specially certified professionals, are affixed to eye awnings with medically approved adhesive in a variety of lengths, curls, and thickness. Low-temperature waxing treatments use natural resins to oust unwanted hair and errant tumbleweeds from corporeal plains, whereas myriad massage, scrub, and body-peel options leave musculatures relaxed and rejuvenated.
Every morning, the pastry chef of Nickel Diner officiates a sacred marriage between sweet and savory. The result is the restaurant's famed maple bacon donut: a glazed pastry topped with crumbled bacon bits. This mix of textures is a common one at the quirky venue, typifying their salt peanut cake—covered with peanut butter and potato chips—and dinner entrée of catfish with corn cakes, which derive a sweet tang from a candied pecan sauce. The creations of head chef Monica May and her team are enough to distinguish Nickel from a traditional diner (though, of course, they still flip a good burger). Nevertheless, designer Kristen Trattner dreamed up decor that matches the menu's eccentricity. On Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, Guy Fieri marvels at the upside-down floor lamps on the ceiling and the mannequin busts in the window, whose hairstyles consist of sculpted meringue. Guests can greet them at breakfast, lunch, or dinnertime every day of the week except for Monday, presumably the day when they rid their beehives of actual bees.
Through the panoramic windows of Silver State Trailways' European motorcoaches, passengers watch the highway roll by as veteran drivers chauffeur them between California and Las Vegas. The luxury fleet has made the interstate journey since 1986, along with special trips to Arizona and such California tourist destinations as national parks, Disneyland, and the store where Arnold Schwarzenegger buys his spinach. Seating 31–61 passengers, the air-conditioned buses ease the passing hours with features such as onboard restrooms, reclining seats, and overhead monitors for entertainment. Committed to customer safety, Silver State Trailways keeps in constant touch with its drivers through a state-of-the-art communications system that pinpoints coaches’ whereabouts without having to hire a film-noir P.I. to tail them on horseback.
Growing up in Naples, Diego Ortoli developed a passion for traditionally prepared Italian cuisine. When he moved to LA, he found the classic recipes he craved were actually somewhat hard to come by. So, in 2010, after years in the restaurant industry, he decided to open Portofino Cucina Italiana, his own little slice of Naples.
He assembles an extensive menu of Italian dishes, such as homemade gnocchi in gorgonzola sauce or roasted whitefish topped with black olives and capers. He pairs the food with an equally lengthy wine list that focuses on Italian vintages. This combination of tradition and quality earned Ortoli praise for his authentic cuisine in Singular Magazine.