Greg Daniels' introduction to the culinary world wasn't a romantic one: he started working at a fast food restaurant at age 15, followed by a stint as a bartender. Nevertheless, these jobs ignited a passion for cooking that would guide his entire life. The Le Cordon Bleu graduate now works as the executive chef at Haven Gastropub, where he has designed a menu of gourmet American and European comfort foods inspired by his travels to England, New York, and San Francisco.
The eatery is an across-the-pond extension of the gastropub movement, which began in London in the 90s. Gastropubs differ from traditional pubs in that they specialize in high-quality eats and permit only the most beautiful drinking songs. Haven, for example, serves lamb burgers on rosemary brioche buns, fries sprinkled with house-made truffle salt, and whole roasted suckling pigs.
Of course, the "pub" part of Gastropub still implies a lively bar. Bartenders pour more than a dozen draughts as well as a selection of bottled beers, red and white wines, and craft cocktails blended with house-made mixes.
Nestled inside the Bonaventure Hotel, experienced masseuses maintain 10,000 square feet of pure serenity spread across 11 treatment rooms. Cordoned off into sections for men and women, the facility flaunts amenities such as hydro-jet showers with seven pulsing showerheads and saunas fogged with soothing vapor instead of fog machines stolen from middle-school dances. Bonaventure Club plucks massage techniques from all over the globe, including Thailand where therapists stretch frames with their hands, knees, and feet to amplify the client's flexibility and energy. Pre- or post-treament, clients can unwind in a relaxation lounge stocked with Perrier water, jasmine-rose tea, and snacks, while flipping through magazines or watching a big-screen TV.
Named after its spot in the shadow of the Santa Anita Racetrack, One Hundred to One evens the odds with a no-frills selection of beers and spirits. Float toward camaraderie-laden coves borne on the sudsy currents of Budweiser, Amber Bock, or Shock Top draught pitchers (starting at $7.50). Or listen for the sound of ocean waves and subliminal messages from Sting by putting your mouth and ear to international bottles ($4.25), including Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, and Dos Equis. Parched partiers can also place their fermented fate in the hands of one of One Hundred to One's merrymaking mixologists, sating thirsts with cocktails constructed of blithe spirits including Belvedere ($6.75), Crown Royal ($5.75), and Bombay Sapphire ($5.75).
The sound of galloping horses and the scent of barbecued meats fill the air during the annual Winner's Circle BBQ Championship Santa Anita. Grill masters from across the state and country travel to Santa Anita Park to pit their slow-cooked, wood-fired chicken, pork, and beef against one another in the daylong event. The winner not only receives cash prizes and the recognition of best barbecue in California but also goes on to represent the state in national cook-off events. Attendees receive the tastiest side of the arrangement, as those bearing tasting tickets can nibble samples of the competitors' best slices and vote for the People's Choice winner. They can also partake in carnival games, face painting, pony rides, and jumping sessions inside an inflatable jump house. The horses of Santa Anita Park conjure even more excitement as they speed through the track during live races viewable from the park's infield, where the cook-off is held.
Using only fat-free vegetable oil, seasonal vegetables, and fresh meats, the chefs of Nirvana Indian Cuisine whip up authentic Indian dishes in their sunny, open space. White table clothes set the stage for heaping plates of curries and naan, and lunchtime diners can sample bites of everything during the lunch buffet.
Though freedom to choose your own pairings is good for believers in true love and eclectic décor, professionally paired flavor combos showcase the best qualities of each ingredient. A retail shop outfitted with a handsome tasting bar, California Wine and Cheese stocks wines produced exclusively in California, regularly consisting of over 200 selections. Wine flights consist of four to five samplings and change every Friday, giving customers a chance to gain a broad appreciation for all kinds of wine. If you've already sampled one or more wines from the flight, just wait a week and new choices of red or white wine will magically appear. To complement the characteristics of each wine, a sampling of imported and domestic cheeses accompanies each flight. Because California Wine and Cheese sells the goods to take home, you can purchase the wines and cheeses you like best to re-create the pairings at home for dinner guests and culinarily curious cats.