Location was key. Sophistication was important. Comfort, safety, star power (aka bragging rights for the Eastcoaster) topped the punch list. One hotel kept popping up on my radar: The Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills. Fingers crossed, I booked us for three nights. Phew, the “girls” heartily approved my choice.
Question: When does anything exceed your expectations these days ?
Well, this grand Dame sure did. The hotel literally blew us away. With a $35 million dollar face lift (that buys a whole lot of Botox) the hotel had just finished freshening up its’ previously somewhat staid interior with several dramatic but pleasing make-over’s.
The impeccably trained staff was all exceedingly gracious and anxious to help. We’d go downstairs each morning with our agenda of places we wanted to check-out, grab a complimentary cup of coffee and pastry for brekkie by the pool, then return to the concierge who would have all our stops geographically plotted with almost fool-proof directions (she understood that we were “special” and thoughtfully avoided freeways whenever possible) so that we only got lost one time- a new world record for us.
We loved all the colors. Snappy limeade loungers circled the gorgeous upstairs saline pool (no more burning eyes) with enough patio space so you could sun with some privacy. Indoors, there were gorgeous flower arrangements in every nook and hotel cranny, while lush gardens held outdoor space hostage: think bougainvillea, orange trees and succulents –all newly styled out. Bob Cohen’s (a co-owner of the hotel) previous life revolved around the florist trade, so who would know better that a properly placed donkey tail speaks visual volumes.
Culina- Hot new Italian resto
After spreading out in our spacious two-room suite newly (and tastefully) decorated in Hollywood’s finest Glam-style, we threw on our “blacks” and joined the beautiful peeps at the Four Seasons’ new cosmopolitan Italian resto, Culina (Latin for kitchen.) The menu easily zigzags between traditional and modern offerings with the common denominator being the usage of superior ingredients- such as the finest aged balsamics, special private-label olive oil, homemade pastas and breads, artisinal salami and a burrata peperonata to die for. After hearing our rather heated debate over which crudo to try, our peacemaking waiter quickly stepped in (without a hint of eye-rolling) and suggested a tasting platter we could all share. Just a few of the menu standouts we enjoyed were the paper-thin, truffle/fontina pizza, the Chilean sea bass with wild mushroom risotto and the humongous veal chop dressed with a zingy arugula/tomato salad. The wine list is amazing-not only due to the fact that they carry over 200 wines, but that almost all of them are also offered by the carafe, (basically a half-bottle) making it easy to put together your own wine-pairing dinner, finished with one of their unique dessert wines.
Culina’s manager stopped by to see if we were happy (oh, yes!) and told us that even though it was still their opening week, they already had “regulars” that were rapidly filling up the reservation book. But no worries, the restaurant seats around 235, widely spread out between the dining room, outdoor garden and convivial crudo bar. Unfortunately, we were previously committed for Sunday brunch so I could only do a calorie-free walk-through, but OMG what a spread! Not one, but two rooms were laden with tempting delicacies, from impeccably fresh sushi to hot donuts surrounded by a variety of dipping sauces.
Time for R & R
Later that afternoon, after a refreshing dip in the pool, I escaped to the sanctuary of the well-appointed spa to try their signature Fire and Ice facial by IS Clinical. My skilled therapist, Dallas, confided that if she had her way she’d only do this treatment, since the results are so amazing. (I begged her to name-drop a few of the “star” faces she had smoothed, but her lips were sealed as tight as my skin looked after this incredible age-defying facial.)
One of the most endearing things about this hotel was that with all the razzle dazzle,(we were told they had hosted the bulk of the Oscar nominees the previous week) we commoners were also made to feel extremely welcome. By day two, my Sis was ordering the complimentary limo to take her to Rodeo Drive like it was her nabe convenience store.
Our Fave Activites:
1. Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens:
One stop shopping for all your cultural needs. You can easily spend the whole day here exploring the stellar European art collection, strolling through the dozen gardens sprawled out over 120 acres. Choices include a zen Japanese Garden, the multi-hued Rose Garden, the Garden of Flowing Fragrance, or my fave, the remarkable Desert Garden brimming with cacti and succulents. Don’t miss a visit to the Library, where there are over 6 million items on display. The weather was so gorgeous during out visit that we didn’t want to be indoors, so we just snuck a quick peek at their crown jewel, an amazing Gutenberg Bible on vellum. Tummies growling, we stopped between gardens for a satisfying traditional English tea, served in the Rose Garden tea room, where we had our fill of assorted finger sammies (crust-less varieties of egg, salmon, watercress, tuna, etc.) fresh salads, fruit and cheese, yummy bite sized pastries and a steaming basket of scones with jam and whipped cream with a proper pot of tea. Tea was served buffet style and repeat trips were encouraged.
Tip: If you don’t finish your scones (between the three of us we still only managed to make a small dent) they will happily bag leftovers (sweetly tied with ribbon so Sis took them home to redistribute for prezzies.)
2. Getty Museum:
The outdoor space is as wonderful as the art filled interiors of the Richard Meier-designed buildings. Don’t miss a wander through the modern sculpture garden featuring pieces by Roy Lichtenstein, Joan Miró, and Isamu Noguchi. The five main galleries offer fantastic permanent collections or eclectic changing exhibitions. Check the getty website for what’s new to view.
Tip: Unbelievably, admission is FREE!
3. The Norton Simon Museum:
The Norty-Si is famous for one of the most remarkable private art collections ever assembled– from Renaissance to 20th century masterpieces. Located in old Pasadena, our trusty concierge had plugged this into our schedule after our Huntington stop, which worked out brilliantly since the museum stays open until 9:00 PM on Fridays so we could take in their fab portrait exhibit rather than fight rush hour traffic.
4. Take the short drive from Beverly Hills to beachy Santa Monica, which has all the fun but is much cleaner and classier than Venice Beach. Be sure to try The Lobster restaurant ( surprisingly reasonable prices, given their perfect local, perched right on the pier) for their fresh-off-the boat seafood and warm bread served with a delish green pesto/ olive dipper, then stroll the 3rd Street promenade for plenty of free outdoor entertainment.
5. If you’ve only time for one meal outside of the hotel, head to The Bazaar by José Andrés. Few places live up to their hype but this 4 in 1: winebar, tapas bar, resto and a patisserie-which displays it’s edible bling like jewels under glass, is truly amazing. Food this creative deserves to be housed in, what we think is designer Philippe Starck’s masterpiece to date.
After handing us our menus, our waiter suggested we take some time to peruse the menu “as it could be a bit overwhelming.”
Perplexed, I’m thinking, “We’re here to eat, not take the Bar Exam.”
My suggestion: Go with the Flow. Bazaar is a unique concept, definitely not a spot for your daily squares. It’s yummy fun- I promise. Start with the Magic Mojitos (which I can’t describe because it will spoil the surprise) and then, if money is no object (which is really the only way to dine here) just follow the waiter’s lead.
6. Drive-bys. Pretend you’re a distant Reagan relation and cruise through swanky Bel- Air. Palm Beach mansions, big-sky Wyoming ranches and beach houses at the Hamptons are swell, but Bel-Air homes are probably some of the grandest digs anywhere in the world. Drive discreetly, eyeball what you can and covet.