At the French restaurant where they both got their start, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger discovered decidedly un-French cuisine in the privacy of the kitchen: homespun Oaxacan and Yucatan recipes prepared by their fellow chefs. The duo promptly untied their aprons, loaded them into a VW Beetle, and took off for a road trip to Mexico in 1985, where they sampled and studied delicacies prepared at beachside taco stands and family barbecues. Three restaurants, two gourmet food trucks, five cookbooks, hundreds of episodes of Food Network's Too Hot Tamales, and sizzling appearances on Top Chef Masters later, their Border Grill eateries add contemporary twists to authentic Mexican cuisine. Guests are greeted by dining rooms originally designed by the architect Josh Schweitzer, who is Mary Sue's husband and Susan's childhood friend. Within their walls, healthful plates enhanced by seasonal fruits and vegetables and fresh salsas roll into handmade tortillas or revel beneath cotija cheese. Devoted to sustainable eating, Border Grill infuses its dishes with sustainable seafood, organic rice and beans, and hormone-free meats, as well as Good for the Planet, Good for You meals made from at least 80% plant-based ingredients, just like Captain Planet's faux-leather jacket.
Some restaurants have that uncanny ability to transport diners to another place or time. Taking a sip of Lavazza espresso or a bottomless mimosa out on Blue Daisy's patio has that kind of power; thoughts of an Italian street corner or European capital may come to mind. But the many things Blue Daisy's kitchen is good at don't end with drinks. The chefs specialize in crepes, including a savory breakfast variety with mushrooms, spinach, white cheddar, feta, and egg. Others have sweet fillings, such as Nutella or lemon ricotta cheese and lemon sauce.
It's no surprise that it was also the crepes that first helped Blue Daisy grow in popularity and size. Since opening in 2011, the restaurant has moved to a bigger location where the team experiments with organic dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The chefs make everything from scratch, right down to the champagne vinegar and the walnut oil dressing in their salads. And at dinner, beer and wine pair with fresh-ground hamburgers and creamy fettuccine with chicken and spinach.
The Pacific Ocean ripples outside the broad windows of Cézanne’s dining room, which exudes elegance through its high ceilings, cream-colored upholstery, and white, Victorian lounge chairs. Inside this warmly lit space, chefs serve up French-Californian cuisine, including filet mignon, lamb chops, and seafood fillets kissed with 7-year balsamic reduction or creamy bordelaise. More than 20 wines by the glass pair with breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and more vintages are available by the bottle.
But Cézanne is only one petal in the Le Merigot blossom. Part of the JW Marriott franchise, the European-style luxury hotel offers direct access to beaches and the Santa Monica Pier. After polishing off a croque madame in one of Cézanne’s crown-shaped banquettes, guests can inquire at the front desk about Le Merigot’s world-class spa or the possibility of dividing up one night’s stay by occupying each of 175 suites for exactly 10 minutes.
Fitness industry veteran Dulcinea Lee Hellings's goal is to bring a high-quality, effective exercise regimen to people who don't love big gyms or can't afford personal trainers. In 2004, she realized that mornings could be used for more than hitting the snooze button over and over for two hours, and founded Boot Camp "Morning Crunch!" to help fledgling exercisers whip into shape.
She designs her all-levels programs to be scream-free morning motivators⎯the first stop in her patrons' journey of daily accomplishments. The fast-paced, ever-changing circuit of strength and cardio exercises keeps bodies guessing and minds from becoming bored. Each of the boot camp's 12 outdoor locations has a different dedicated trainer who gets to know each student personally, remembering their names and memorizing any interesting freckle patterns. They complement their morning routines with a smattering of evening options for those who prefer to work out after the day's activities.
If you look closely at Tivoli Cafe's deceptively traditional menu, you'll find that the classic Italian dishes are made with a very modern sense of sustainability. The filet mignon is made with all natural, hormone- and antibiotic-free beef. The shrimp and scallops are wild-caught to ensure ecological responsibility. The eggs are organic and the chicken steroid free, so diners can indulge without worrying about their health or that their entrees will punch them in the eye in a fit of rage. Of course, each environmentally minded dish is prepared with familiar Italian sensibilities, including leeks and mushrooms dressed in a port-wine sauce. The kitchen's expertise in classic preparations has been well earned, since Tivoli Cafe has been serving patrons since 1989. The eatery's ambiance is as well-honed as its culinary prowess; its homey, family-friendly atmosphere permeates the indoor dining room, extending onto the comfortably heated outdoor seating area.
Operated by two friends with a lifetime of experience in the deli industry, Fromin's Delicatessen & Restaurant has conquered appetites with generously sized sandwiches, burgers, and California-tinged diner-style dinners for more than 30 years. The owners bring a wealth of life experiences to the table as they ply their culinary trade, with Maurice Solomon being a survivor of Nazi-occupied Belgium and Dennis Fromin being a fourth-generation deli operator. The longtime buddies staff the counter themselves, whipping up blintzes and omelets all day long, and layering towering sandwiches with chicken salad, hot pastrami, and corned beef. The pair's commitment to preparing traditional delicatessen fare runs deep. Dennis draws from decades of family tradition and Maurice proudly sports the name “Deli King” on his license plate and library card.