Top 10 Worldwide Dabble Does Culinary Destinations

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As the Editor in Chief of Dabble, I get to travel all around the world to taste-test food for upcoming Dabble destination features. It’s a hard job, but somebody’s got to do it…

Featured Image: Southern comfort food: Shrimp and grits from High Cotton in Charleston, South Carolina.Top 10 Faves:

1- Nashville: Locals claim Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack does hot chicken best, and I can’t disagree. A Nashville specialty, hot chicken is battered in buttermilk and cayenne pepper, and then pan-fried. Better have a beer nearby because when we say hot, we mean hot.

2- Barcelona: Cobalt blue water bottles cast a watery tinge onto crisp white tablecloths in the contemporary setting of Matamala. Asking the waiter for a recommendation yields what can only be described as fish donuts. Sounds weird, but the bite-sized cod balls are drizzled in honey and taste like heaven with the accompanying cold beer. A small, well-stocked grocery selection includes fun gift ideas such as the pa amb tomaquet (Catalan bread with tomato spread) kit.

3- Budapest: A must-visit gem of Hungarian home cooking is Cafe Kar. The restaurant is fairly small, not terribly picturesque, and the staff is not overly affectionate (have I wowed you yet?). However, the memorable home cooking makes these minor issues easily tolerated. Perfect goulash, sublime veal tenderloin and a Viennese style, thinly pounded Wiener schnitzel with parsley potatoes are just a few favourites.

4- Toronto: Is there any better way to wrap up a long day’s work than with refreshments on a twinkling patio? Caren’s Wine and Cheese Bar is unassuming and casual in contrast to its chi-chi Yorkville setting. It boasts a varied list of reasonably priced wines and cheeses, as well as a spicy baked macaroni and cheese that’s worth blowing the diet over.

5- Charleston: You can’t go all the way to Charleston without eating some good ol’ Southern cookin’. Maverick Southern Kitchens operates two fabulous restaurants on East Broad Street: Slightly North of Broad (SNOB) and High Cotton. Try the shrimp and grits at both locations. Tip: Don’t fill up on the wonderful corn bread they serve…or do. If you feel like learning how to make a Southern dish, visit Cooks right across the street and participate in a cooking class.

6- Puerto Rico: Lusty describes the setting and menu at Dragonfly, Puerto Rico’s first Latin-Asian restaurant. Red walls, beaded curtains and fringed lamps are right out of Shanghai Surprise, but the food is delish.

7- Santa Monica: Always on a roll, LA food trucks are famous for their variety of fare. Quell midday hunger with a visit to Pennsylvania and 26th streets where you’ll find at least a dozen trucks Monday-Friday. The setting is meh, but $5.00 buys a feast–fish tacos, kogi beef skewers, fish and chips, even a green salad truck.

8- Quebec City: Seeking a truly French meal? Then make your way to la rue St. Jean to Le Moine Echanson. This restaurant comes highly recommended from locals, who tend to be demanding gourmets. Every dish is paired with a wine recommendation. Be sure to make reservations if you want to enjoy this unique culinary experience. Try a savoury dish like the Gratin d’Escargots et Fromage Chevre; you’ll swear you are in France.

9- St. Pierre et Miquelon: Dreaming of a trip to France? Moi aussi. So I pack my bags and do what any croissant-loving world traveller does, I fly to Newfoundland. That’s right. St. Pierre is a small patch of French soil in the province of Newfoundlad. The Auberge Quatre Temps’ award-winning chef, Pascal Vigneau, chats with his guests before dishing out heavenly lobster and salmon (best accompanied with a chilled Muscade or Sylvaner) and the fluffiest lemon-lime cheesecake.

10- Prague: If your taste buds are overwhelmed by hearty Czech fare, stop for lunch at Cukrkavalimonada Caffe. The imposing name translates to ‘coffee sugar lemonade.’ Perfect for salads, omelettes, grilled chicken and tempting desserts like palacinky (Czech crepes).

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Disclosure: This post was brought to you by The new Scotiabank ®* Gold America Express ® Card via Glam Media Canada. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Scotiabank ®* or America Express ®’

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Spanish Eyes

  • Wrought iron balusters grace the foyer’s tiled staircase.
  • Various objet d’art and collectibles rest on surfaces throughout the spacious living room. A formidable and eclectic art collection adorns the room’s walls.
  • LEFT: The coffee table has a balustrade base and its top is edged in marble which surrounds a terra cotta field. RIGHT: At the bar, crystal glasses rest on a chest decorated with marquetry.
  • The panelled study enjoys uninterrupted views to the foyer and into the dining room. Its coffered ceiling creates cozy intimacy in the warm setting.
  • In the dining room, a two-tiered crystal chandelier with acanthus leaves at the crown and antique bronze fittings softly illuminates the oval table. The table is surrounded by leather-clad dining chairs with tapestry backs.
  • Looking outside to the courtyard, dinner guests catch sight of the leafy lemon trees that are poised to flower and release their delicate scent.
  • A large candle chandelier floats above the kitchen island. When the temperature heats up, family and guests move into the shade of the adjoining patio.
  • From the kitchen, doors open onto a charming patio beneath an ivy-covered archway.

Marci Valner’s Spanish Colonial style home circa 1929 is minutes from UCLA in the urban suburb of Westwood. Jockeying for a parking spot is de rigueur in this neighbourhood. We see one, grab it and remember to hang the coveted permit from the rear view mirror or—ouch—a $64 ticket is sure to be waiting upon our return.

Although the home is formally designed it’s clearly well-loved and used frequently for entertaining. Patterned chairs and serviceable sofas invite lingering in the living room. Aubusson tapestry and vintage leaf patterns adorn pillows on the velvet sofa. An antique trestle side table sits next to the William Birch arm chair with its vintage palm leaf upholstery.

In the kitchen, cool-to-the-touch terra cotta floors offer a respite from the day’s heat. White adobe plaster walls and rustic wood beams on the ceiling add to the 1920’s mood.

We are in no hurry to rush back to our parking spot and take a moment to rest on the patio’s cool tile steps.

Santa Monica Gallery

Santa Monica Travel Guide

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Smitten with sun, sand and surf? Then pack your bags and grab your sunscreen. Dabble’s team agrees, Santa Monica is a traveller’s triple threat: coastal chic, healthful eats and an urban beat.Santa Monica’s iconic pier is a colourful backdrop to the city’s liberal politics, healthful living and laid back beach style. We hit the streets, boardwalk and sand to discover what makes this urban beach town tick.

Stay

Picking a single hotel is difficult thanks to outstanding local choices. Ultimately, a design crush on Kelly Wearstler sways us towards the Viceroy Santa Monica with its eye-popping colour and near-beach location. The pool side cabanas are a perfect place to linger after a leisurely day shopping.

Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel offers a beach side seat near the fire place and a perfect ending to an LA day. The Huntley Penthouse bar gets an honorable mention for its great view and the fun atmosphere for a GNO (girls’ night out).

Shutters on the Beach is hand’s down the best lobby bar in all of LA. Relaxing on comfy sofas, listening to the house pianist and watching sun-dipped patrons is pure bliss. Although it’s a splurge to spend the night, seaside views are unparalleled.

Eat

Main Street has an easy-going vibe that makes a leisurely day wandering the shops feel like a vacation. Take a seat in the outdoor courtyard at The World Cafe and you’ll feel transported to somewhere exotic. Try the poached pear salad.

Breakfast. The most important meal of the day is off to a good start at Cora’s Coffee Shoppe. Sit under the bougainvillea canopy and order the orange pancakes. Huckleberry’s location on Wilshire is not nearly as picturesque, but there’s ample parking in back and the sauteed spinach and roasted potatoes with sunnyside up eggs are divine.

Two out of three dabble contributor’s agree, the Gruyere and spicy mayo burger from Father’s Office is the best they’ve ever eaten. The place is always jumping and you’ll have to share a table, but it’s a great night out. Just don’t ask for ketchup. They don’t have any.

If you’re on a budget, check out Veggie Grill and try the yummy sweet potato fries and vegan Bali Bliss, an Indonesian style tempeh, grilled with chipotle ranch sauce.

Shop

Wander off the main shopping streets and there is still more to see. Make sure to visit Fred Segal on Broadway with its over-the-top housewares section (celebrity spottings are practically guaranteed). On Ocean Avenue take a break from gazing at the ocean to shop at Carlyle Design, which is tucked behind garden gates. The furniture is large scale and nicely tailored without fussiness. They have a great selection of Indian and Turkish style coffee tables and enough small accessories that you’re sure to find something to squeeze into your suitcase.

Fresh fish rules at Santa Monica Seafood Company, a family-owned business since 1939. A retail space, oyster bar, indoor/outdoor cafe and over 70 varieties of fish on ice makes us giddy. Do park in the rear as empty meters are ticketed frequently.

See

Impressive doesn’t begin to describe the hilltop setting or extensive collections at the world famous Getty Center. Richard Meier’s architectural masterpiece is clad in cleft-cut travertine and features a curvilinear design that wanders through a variety of natural gardens. Admission is free but you do need to make a reservation.

Originally a stop on the now-defunct Red Line trolley, Bergamot Station is currently a groovy arts centre with 30 plus galleries, shops, a museum and cafe. Free general admission.

Do

Lining the walls at Salute Wine Bar, is a most unusual sight, an adult version of a soda fountain that dispenses — wait for it — wine samples. A prepaid card lets you choose from 40 different bottles. The martinis are mighty fine too.

The Santa Monica Pier ought to have a star on the walk of fame, it’s been in so many movies: Forrest Gump and The Sting to name two. And, did you know solar panels drive the eco-concious ferris wheel by day, and 160,000 LEDs light it up Hollywood-style by night?

Santa Monica’s Top 5 Food Experiences

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Whole Food

Lighter, healthier whole foods are menu mainstays in waistconcious Santa Monica says food contributor Janeen Laudenback.

1. Locals plan their produce shopping around the Farmer’s Market on Arizona between 2nd and 4th streets. Organic meats, cheeses, and every kind of green imaginable are on display. Wednesdays and Saturdays from 8:30 am to 1:00 pm.

2. A second Farmer’s Market happens every Sunday from 9:30 am to 1:00 pm at Main Street and Ocean Park in Heritage Square. The setting is lively with musical performances and childrens’ pony rides providing additional reasons to shop for produce at the weekly fair. Come hungry and sample mouth-watering burrittos. There’s metered parking on the street or ride your bike and leave it with the bike valet.

3. There’s plenty of sand to spread your blanket on, so why not pack or pick up a picnic to enjoy al fresco? Forgo alcohol, which is forbidden on the beach, and opt for a fresh brewed iced tea.

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4. Raw, vegan, vegetarian, organic, whether it’s a lifestyle commitment or you’re simply cuisine-curious, these restaurants will even impress your omnivore friends. Try A Votre Sante, Real Food Daily, Chandni Vegetarian Restaurant.

5. Always on a roll, LA food trucks are famous for their variety of fare. Quell midday hunger with a visit to Pennsylvania and 26th streets where you’ll find at least a dozen trucks Monday-Friday. The setting is meh, but $5.00 buys a feast: fish tacos, kogi beef skewers, fish and chips, even a green salad truck.

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Chic and Shabby

  • Undaunted by occasional design work, Sunny 'aged' a new dining table with layers of paint and strategic sanding. Rather than opting for a matching set of dining chairs, the fearless decorator selected eight mis-matched seats, allowing the dining table to play host to lingering dinner parties where friends needn’t worry about spilling a glass of wine.
  • "Nothing here is precious,” says Sunny, “it’s meant to be used.”
  • “I don’t like small things,” says Sunny, “I buy big furniture and accent with attention-getting accessories.”
  • “I dabble in collecting. I love to mix and match candlesticks, cake stands, china and glassware.”
  • The coloured bead chandelier over the gas fireplace and the dome chandelier resting on the console are two additional Shabby Chic purchases.
  • Before buying, the event planner used the statue professionally as a rental prop.
  • Rachel Ashwell’s original Shabby Chic store opened here, on Montana Avenue, in Santa Monica in 1989.
  • LEFT A graphic New York Grand Central Station typography sign from 1954.

Despite a proliferation of self-help books and TV shows which seem contrary to this opinion, not everyone struggles with decorating. DIY’er Sunny Ravanbach says, “If you stick to your personal style, know where to shop and trust your instincts, the process is enjoyable.” Visiting her lovely Santa Monica condo makes it impossible to argue with the tangible results of her personal decorating philosophy.

“I don’t think about decorating – it’s super easy for me,” says Sunny. “I know people struggle with it, but I just buy what I love and somehow it all works.” Of course, she lives enviably close to some of LA’s best design shops, including the original Shabby Chic store on nearby Montana Avenue.

“I absolutely love the simple colours and the easygoing vibe of the furniture at Shabby Chic. Although the iconic shop, which first opened its doors in 1989, is the basis for her look, Sunny wanted her home to feel more ethnic, so she’s added touches from India and Morocco. “And don’t call it country,” she insists. “It’s got its roots in elegant European design.”

An event production designer by trade, Sunny’s company White Lilac Inc. has been serving an impressive roster of discerning LA clients like Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior for more than 12 years.

“It’s true that my job is somewhat design oriented,” muses Sunny. “Maybe that makes it easier for me to jump-start my project.” She did that by purchasing the oversize coffee table.

Having done such a lovely job decorating for herself, we want to know if Sunny ever considers going pro ? “I’ve been tempted to,” she laughs, “but I get to satisfy my need to decorate on a large scale through my event planning business. That’s enough for me right now.”

Sunny Shops

Shabby Chic, Santa Monica
It’s no surprise that Shabby Chic is Sunny’s ultimate shopping experience.

Bountiful, Venice Beach
An enormous selection of glassware, mirrors, cake stands, candlesticks, artwork and distressed furniture fills the Abbott-Kinney shop.

Wertz Brothers Antiques Mall, Santa Monica
If it’s vintage or antique, you’ll likely find it here. In fact, it’s where Sunny purchased the graphic New York Grand Central Station typography sign from 1954.

Cisco Home, Brentwood
Sustainable furnishings and organic textiles are stock-in-trade at this design savvy Brentwood shop.

Anthropologie, Santa Monica
Although it’s a chain, Anthropologie is always on target with funky accessories and graphic textiles.

Shopping in Santa Monica

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Main Street

Main Street’s motto, ‘a world away from ordinary, a block away from the beach’ lures us on day one. First stop: fashion/design store, Hip’tique. Down the block we scan Weego Baby, hoping to spot Pink who’s rumoured to be on a spree. We miss the pop star but gets a big hello from ‘that bald guy from Lost’ en route to sister shop Weego Home. After purchasing some wall decals she’s off to Urban Country and Obsolete for jaw dropping one-of-a-kind design objects with price tags to match.

To keep up stamina, make a one-handed snack of Sunny Blue’s omusubi (triangular sushi ball) or pizza from the open window at Wildflour.

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Brentwood Country Mart

Since 1948 Brentwood Country Mart—the rambling red barn and its upscale shops—have been a go-to location for celebs and yummy mummies alike. Turpan specializes in exceptionally designed housewares. Calypso Home St. Barth prompts design envy with its funky mix of earthy, organic textiles and globally influenced furnishings. Roberta Roller Rabbit carries block print home and body fashions. Don’t go home without fresh flowers from Botany.

Dabble’s BCM experience is perhaps most memorable thanks to her chance encounter (modest collision really) with The Mentalist star, Simon Baker.

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Montana Avenue

Upscale shoppers flock to trendy Montana Ave to rub elbows with local celebs like Marcia Cross and Adam Sandler or to design drool at shops from 7th to 17th. Fuel up with coffee from Caffé Luxxe, then head to Stephanie Grace for table top accessories. Whimsical Jonathan Adler never disappoints and neither does Mary Steenburgen’s Rooms & Gardens with its cozy global furnishings. Euro chic from Shabby Chic, Pom Pom and Rosemarie McCaffrey Antiques complete the day.

At lunchtime, snag a sidewalk table and order the shrimp tacos from Babalu or chill out with a frozen Pinkberry. 

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3rd Street Promenade

People watching and shopping are equal draws at the pedestrian friendly outdoor mall known as 3rd Street Promenade. Big name brands such as Pottery Barn, Z Gallerie, Restoration Hardware, and Anthropologie anchor the shopping, which starts at Wilshire Blvd. Walk towards Broadway for more shopping in the recently revamped Santa Monica Place with its signature Nordstrom and Kitson stores.

The Promenade has abundant food choices. Splurge on trendy Sushi-Roku or find a comfy seat on the outdoor patio at Sonoma Wine Garden.

Santa Monica’s Top 5 Travel Experiences

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On The Move

Trying to avoid activity in sunny Santa Monica is futile, so be prepared. It’s an active lifestyle and soon the absence of a yoga mat in your hand shames you into a downward dog. Just ask Travel Contributor Raleigh Seldon; that is, if you can catch her.

1. Arguably the most pedestrian-friendly city in Los Angeles, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area offers more than 80 trailheads for hikers to explore. Give your gams a workout on the week-long 67-mile Backbone Trail Trek. Or if you’re pressed for time, opt for the two-mile Sequit Loop. Trail maps of the area are available at the National Parks Service.

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2. No matter your fitness level, venturing out on the 22-mile bike path is pure joy. Visitors can rent bikes from beachside Perry’s. Hop on a Schwinn performance bike, a tandem or a tricycle. (Oh yeah, Raleigh’s mom, Dabble’ s Editor in Chief, used to meet up with friends at Perry’s, back in the day. It’s still cool.)

3. Duuuude, take surfing lessons and you’ll be hangin’ like a true Californian. Don’t expect to be carving backside 360’s on your first try, but you’ll still feel the stoke. The City of Santa Monica offers a list of authorized surf instructors.

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4. Did you say free? Santa Monica has a variety of events that are 100% free. Music fans will love Jazz on the Lawn, Sundays in August. Show up for free zumba lessons Saturday mornings on the 3rd floor dining deck at Santa Monica Place.

5. Sign up for the Amazing Santa Monica Race. Part scavenger hunt, part reality show, it begins 11:00 am on Saturdays and Sundays. Lace up your running shoes and let the games begin. Note: Start locations vary, get directions when you register.

For more about Santa Monica, visit: Dabble does Santa Monica, Issue 2 May/Jun 2011.

Santa Monica’s Top 5 Design Spots

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Beachy Chic

Interior designer Erin Mercer explores the stylish streets of Santa Monica and gains new appreciation for serious design in the laid back beach town.

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1. Linger for an hour or two at Brentwood Country Mart and make sure to save time for Calypso Home St. Barth. Global inspired furnishings and accessories are artfully displayed in the gracious setting.

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2. Design enthusiasts adore the mad mix of urban clothing and home decor at Hip’tique. Sassy pillows with expressions like ‘call your mother’ mingle with funky light fixtures and accessories. For the record, the jewelry is pretty tempting too.

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3. Let’s not squabble over technicalities. Although Urban Country and Obselete are a few steps out of Santa Monica and into Venice, they are must visit design destinations. Urban Country features a funhouse mix of vintage and industrial rarities while Obsolete’s focus is artwork and unique objets d’art. The price tags are equally serious, but design inspiration is free.

4. Owners Asher and Jessica Richter of Weego Home are rightfully proud of the locally made custom furnishings their Main Street shop brings to the ‘hood. Shopping here is rewarding and fun.

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5. It’s easy to spend the better part of a day shopping Montana Avenue. Pom Pom ranks high for casual European charm. The linen napkins, bedding and tabletop selections are exceptional.

For more about Santa Monica, visit: Dabble does Santa Monica, Issue 2 May/Jun 2011.

The Art of Living

  • Jessica and Asher Richter relax in their colourful living room with three-year-old rescue, Coco Bean.
  • Leafy greens bask in the glow of under cabinet lighting.
  • The green glass tile backsplash is a playful contrast to the sleek walnut countertop.
  • In the master bedroom, blue-grey walls and crisp white drapery create a mellow vibe for Benny, the couple’s English bulldog (seen relaxing on the cool cotton bedding).
  • Rosie, a pit bull mix and five-year-old rescue, out for a three-legged stroll in the shade of the back patio.
  • "Though compromise is key to the success of a designing couple, Jessica and Asher agree that blues and greens are perfect for home."

Young and hip, Jessica and Asher Richter are busy entrepreneurs and owners of Weego Home and Weego Baby in Santa Monica. The dynamic pair create work/life balance through colour, compromise and the company of their adorable dogs, Benny, Rosie and Coco Bean.

The Art of Relaxation

Inviting, cozy and relaxing—words Jessica and Asher Richter use to describe their airy modern home.

“We want our guests to relax and feel at ease,” says Jessica.

The living room is filled with colour and eclectic accents like a 70s-style hanging basket chair and geometric patterned area rug. Plump pillows in vibrant floral patterns give the mink brown sofa its personality.

“I have had the entrepreneurial bug and a love for interior design since childhood,” Asher says. Clearly his talents are all grown up though he’s quick to point out that he loves to have fun with decorating.

In June 2003, Asher opened Weego Home on Main Street in Santa Monica. Customers couldn’t get enough of the store’s chic products and savvy design advice, so he teamed up with Jessica to open a second shop, Weego Baby.

The Art of Colour

“The kitchen is a natural gathering spot on the way from the living room to the back patio,” Jessica says. The magnetic chalkboard paint on the walls and pops of green colour on the glass tile backsplash create a fun vibe for guests (and resident pets).

The Art of Cool

“The back patio doubles as our outdoor retreat and year-round dining room,” Asher says. When Rosie, the couple’s five-year old rescue dog, sits outside, she stays cool near the large palm plants encased in sturdy cement planters. “And when it’s really hot,” Asher laughs, “she likes to doze in the shade under the teak dining table.”

So how does a designing couple work and live together? Jessica is quick to respond, “We both respect each other’s style and opinion. In our home, the unspoken rule is . . . compromise.”

Since adopting Rosie and Coco Bean as playmates for Benny, Asher and Jessica agree: “Our dogs bring us so much joy and truly make our house a home.”