Night + Market Sahm » A little Thailand in LA

Since its grand opening in February, Night + Market Sahm (which means number three in Thai) has West LA bubbling with excitement. LA residents no longer have to make the trek east to its predecessors Night + Market WeHo and Night + Market Song to enjoy chef Kris Yenbamroong’s Thai-inspired dishes.

The 70-seat restaurant, almost two months later, still regularly boasts quite the line for a table, but worry not; I was pleasantly surprised with an offer from the host to stand in their adjoining “lounge” with a pre-dinner drink until our table was ready. I went for a Thai beer, Singha, as I was feeling a growing nostalgia for my travels through Thailand two years ago.. Without having tasted the food yet, I had time to take in the look and vibe of Night + Market Sahm. Plastic hanging beads separated the entryway from the dining area, brightly colored table clothes covered the surfaces, fluorescent signs dotted the walls, and tropical party décor dangled from the ceilings. Reminiscent of a child’s backyard jungle-themed birthday party, Sahm’s interior is not ostentatious, though it’s undeniably eye-catching.


Photo by wonhophoto.com

The Food
One of the reasons west-siders were so excited for this eatery’s opening, was the prospect of easy access to traditional larb and – my personal Thai favorite — khao soi. Larb originates from Laos but is also found in the Isaan region of Thailand, home to many of Lao ethnicity, and it’s best described as a meat salad. With its roots in Northern Thailand, khao soi is a soup-like curry dish traditionally made with a mix of deep-fried crispy egg noodles and boiled egg noodles, pickled mustard greens, shallots, lime, ground chilies, and a choice of meat (oftentimes duck or pork).


Photo courtesy of www.hannaharista.com

Night + Market Sahm turn LALALand into ThaiLand

If you can wrestle the crowds, let yourself enjoy the wait, and get situated with a table at Night + Market Sahm — and, once you’ve ordered a cocktail or a beer and decided on your larb and khao soi selections — be sure to ask your server for the list of nightly specials. Sure, we devoured our first two dishes (warning: if you’re not adept to serious spice, be sure to request that your larb be made very mild — Thai-level spicy, and even medium, is no joke!); but, our order from the Specials menu, we found, was where the magic really was. As our luck had it, this particular night’s special was a duck “pizza”. Though we were almost (…don’t worry, I said almost) too full from our papaya salad, larb, and khao soi to eat it by the time it arrived, it was no question that our final selection stole the show. With a crusty base yet chewy top, juicy pieces of duck with the crispy, salty skin still on, crisp green onions, and a tangy yet sweet plum sauce drizzled on top, we weren’t about to let any of our last dish go to waste.

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Courtesy of Night + Market Sahm

Lincoln Boulevard, the popular through-way from Santa Monica to the South Bay, is no stranger to restaurants and bars that come and go. And, with so much competition, it’s easy to see why a new establishment vying for the label of a “hotspot” might flounder. But, with two successful restaurants at its base and Venice’s nightlife reinvigorating, bets are on the Night + Market Sahm is here to stay.

Love,

Shae

Night + Market Sahm
2533 Lincoln Blvd, Venice

Website

*Header photo courtesy of wonhophoto.com

*Shae is our guest blogger from Los Angeles. An educator whose lust for experience influences her teaching, she travels with the desire to immerse herself in diverse cultures, seeking new adventure and inspiring others to engage with compassion and expand their world view. Follow Shae on Instagram! @seekvantage

The Arts District: Downtown LA’s Neighborhood-on-the-Rise

Upon first glance, it may not look like much, but take a closer look and you’ll see Downtown LA’s Arts District is more than just early 20th century warehouses and abandoned factories. Must-see galleries, socially-conscious eateries, stylish coffee shops, and trendy blocks are popping up more and more, and Angelinos seeking novel streets to meander and new backdrops for their photos are starting to flock as they catch wind of this hip neighborhood.

Having lived in LA for more than half a decade, I revel in any opportunity to explore places I don’t usually frequent. So, with a fairly open weekend on my hands, I made the drive downtown. With the sun deciding to greet me after a week of Southern California’s infamous “June Gloom”, it was hard to leave my beach town. But, I’m so glad I did.

Zinc Café
Fourth-generation vegetarian, John Secretan attended school in Berkeley, California and dreamed of bringing the vibe of the area down to LA. Opening his first Zinc Café in Laguna Beach almost 30 years ago, Secretan lived behind his first ever food industry venture in a small wooden shack to ensure he’d always have a close hand in the business. 

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Choose to eat indoors or out; either way, the dining areas are a welcome respite from the busy city

After years of renovating and expanding, a new branch of Zinc opened in Downtown Los Angeles, boasting the franchise’s first full service restaurant and bar. With three years under its belt now, my brunch experience was a success and filled with creamy lattes, fresh dishes, and creative cocktails. www.zinccafe.com

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Zinc’s Asparagus Sandwich with a poached egg on top

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Zinc offers breakfast, lunch, dinner, cocktails, and desserts

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Bar Mateo is the newest addition to Zinc, with a craft cocktail bar set in a 1914-built barn

Street Art at Every Corner
Cities around the world are seeing a sprouting cultural wave involving Street Art, and the artists behind the paint are turning into household names. The Downtown Arts District is no stranger to this popular movement. In wandering the streets, you can find hand-painted murals, airbrushed stencils, or thought-provoking proverbs to fit your day’s mood.

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I was so excited to see work by Wrdsmth, currently my favorite street artist!

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Art everywhere!

Pit Stop at Resident
Perhaps one of the coolest places I’ve discovered in a while is Resident, tucked away only blocks from the popular Arts District Co-op and other chic shops. What began as a studio for the artist-owners, this is “not-your-grandmother’s” backyard, as it has been transformed into a hybrid of a bar, beer garden, and music venue. With beer, wine, and cocktails on tap, drinks are served out of an Airstream, and semi-permanent food trucks are carted in to help you beat those mid-day cravings. At night, the inside opens up as a hip bar, as well. Bonus: The owners, Tim and Bridget Vagedes, still live there, as they’ve secured an RV on the roof of the three-story former metal shop and warehouse, decked out with string lights, yard decorations, and plenty of greenery. www.residentdtla.com

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Resident’s Airstream: an innovative bar

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A peek at Resident’s eclectic outdoor seating

The Arts District Co-op is a landmark not to be missed. Picture a 15,000-square foot indoor flea market, but with nothing but the most up-to-date fashions and desirable trinkets. Over two dozen vendors offer jewelry, apparel, home goods, and, if you’re in the market, art of all mediums. Plus, there’s a permanent stage set up in the back for live music featured on the third Saturday of every month!

As the sun set, I didn’t want to admit that the day was coming to a close. I had only scratched the surface of this neighborhood-on-the-rise and hungered for more. For example, the Arts District Brewing Company has finishing tanks stationed behind each bar to serve tap beer straight from the source; and, while sipping your suds, you can play Skee-Ball or try your hand at table hockey. Westbound, unobtrusively set along the perimeter of a mixed-use walk street (both residences and storefronts share this stretch), features craft cocktails, seasonal small bites, and even boozy milkshakes.

It’s not hard to see why this area is becoming so popular, as the Arts District has a little bit of something for everyone. With so many more to streets explore, shops to peruse, and bites to nibble, I’ll certainly be making my way downtown more often.

Love,

Shae

*Shae is our guest blogger from Los Angeles. An educator whose lust for experience influences her teaching, she travels with the desire to immerse herself in diverse cultures, seeking new adventure and inspiring others to engage with compassion and expand their world view. Follow Shae on Instagram! @seekvantage

The BEST Breakfast Sandwich You’ll Ever Have in LA

Los Angeles is a city of transplants, as many of us have uprooted ourselves from where we were born and bred to create lives in the Southern California sun. We come together to share traditions from our pasts, form new ones of our own, and are lucky enough to sincerely call this City of Angels home.

With the influx of people from all over bringing with them their unique backgrounds and cultural flavors, it’s no wonder the restaurant and bar scene has such an improvisational air to it. New hot-spots pop up almost daily; and, if you ask anyone for their advice on the U.S. cities with the most dynamic food, it’s no doubt that Los Angeles ranks high. But, what better to help a new place begin to feel like home than a dependable and familiar neighborhood go-to? I recently sung the praises of one of my top-choice beachy eateries, Playa Provisions (see the post here!) Still, with so many options right outside my doorstep, my list inevitably continues. Another contender for my favorite menu is nestled comfortably on Abbott Kinney Boulevard in Venice, and it’s a perfect reminder of the melting-pot that L.A. truly is.

Gjelina Take Away
Together forming a foodie trifecta in Venice are three restaurants, Gjelina, Gjelina Take Away, and Gjusta (the latter is the youngest addition to the family – a bakery inspired by an east-coast Jewish/Italian deli). Co-owned by Shelley Kleyn, Travis Lett, and Fran Camaj (Gjelina is named after Camaj’s mother, and Gjusta, after his aunt!), this trio of restaurants seamlessly combines traditional Italian cuisine with the contemporary farm-to-table California taste. The little sister to its neighboring restaurant, Gjelina, Gjelina Take Away (affectionately known as GTA) serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week. Offering a quicker experience than dining-in next door, GTA has all the perks of this popular establishment without the wait.

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GTA’s interior

Walking into GTA in the morning never fails to intrigue me, as the eclectic mix of patrons is rarely repeated. And, those who stumble upon this hidden spot find themselves faced with a gorgeous spread of daily items displayed to entice each passerby, and all made from seasonal, local ingredients.

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Behind the counter

In my quest to find the best breakfast sandwich in LA, GTA caught – and kept – my attention. Braised kale, melted gruyere, a crisp, yet runny, fried egg, thick-cut bacon, and hot sauce (if you want it!) on a grilled English muffin…this sandwich may look small, but it’s packed with mighty flavor. And, when I decide to give-in to my need for a treat, GTA’s version of the popular granola and yogurt option beats out its competition. Served with honey and seasonal fresh fruit, the granola is made in-house and is perfectly chewy, sweet, and salty.

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THE Breakfast Sandwich — so good.

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Satisfying house made granola, fresh fruit, and creamy yogurt.

So, if you’re planning a trip to L.A., you’ll be able to find authentic food from all over the world, no matter your taste. But, if a reliably-delicious breakfast is what you’re after, with market-driven ingredients and beautifully delivered dishes, this eatery has everything you’d hope to experience during a treat-yourself morning out.

Travelers’ Bonus: Gjelina Take Away puts you smack in the middle of one of the hippest shopping streets in Los Angeles, Abbot Kinney Boulevard. After you clean the butter and egg yolk off your face and fingers, pop into the boutiques and art galleries for trendsetting fashion, clever gifts, and musings of all sorts. You could easily spend a couple hours taking it all in as you digest your mouthwatering morning meal.

Gjelina Take Away (GTA)
1427 Abbot Kinney Blvd. (two blocks north of Venice Blvd.)
Website

Love,

Shae

*Shae is our guest blogger from Los Angeles. An educator whose lust for experience influences her teaching, she travels with the desire to immerse herself in diverse cultures, seeking new adventure and inspiring others to engage with compassion and expand their world view. Follow Shae on Instagram! @seekvantage

Playa Provisions » The Must Try Breakfast Spot in LA

As Los Angeles continues to grow and evolve, it seems that around every corner, a new restaurateur is aiming to fulfill his or her dream of owning a successful haven for the SoCal foodie. And sometimes, whether you’re a settled local or an eager traveler, it’s a challenge to keep up with each innovative establishment. Some things, though, are unwavering…like the occasional need for an amazing breakfast experience!

I’ve had my share of Los Angeles breakfasts out (it’s hard to pass up the opportunity with almost 300 sunny days a year; who can blame you for not wanting to stay inside to cook?) And, while I may be biased toward the leisure of the beachy west-side life, I have solidified my choices for the TOP BREAKFAST SPOTS, and here’s my first!

Playa Provisions
With the picture-perfect Playa del Rey Beach as its backdrop, Playa Provisions is one of my favorite places to enjoy a sunshine-filled breakfast or brunch. Executive Chef, Brooke Williamson, of Top Chef, alongside her equally-as-talented Chef husband, Nick Roberts, opened this multi-concept space a couple years back, after seeing huge success with their other two gastro pubs, The Tripel and Hudson House. A restaurant, bar, café, and even creamery, Playa Provisions never fails to have just what you’re looking for, whatever the occasion.

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This modern, yet beachy interior makes Playa Provisions a fun place. (Photo by playaprovisions.com)

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“Dockside”, Playa Provisions’s restaurant, allows a panoramic view of the beach.
(Photo by playaprovisions.com)

While Dockside, Playa Provisions’s seafood-based restaurant, is an ideal dinner spot, Grain, the back bar, offers a variety of whiskeys and other signature cocktails, and Small Batch, a creamery with myriad homemade dessert options, reminds you what it’s like to be a kid in a candy store. But, it’s King Beach, Williamson’s and Roberts’s café, that puts this eatery at the top of my LA Breakfasts list. 

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Impressive latte art!

The King Beach’s Breakfast Sandwich at Playa Provisions is mouthwatering..

When I find myself frequenting the same local spots to get my fill, I like to make my way around the menu to discover my favorites. At Playa Provisions, my top picks have never let me down; first up is the Breakfast Sandwich… King Beach’s Breakfast Sandwich is mouthwatering. A masterfully-cooked egg, turkey and bacon sausages, melted Gruyere, vinegar-cooked collards, avocado, and house-pickled habanero hot sauce on a precisely-toasted ciabatta roll; this is surely the sandwich from which cravings are made.

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Coconut Chia Seed Pudding and coffee for two? Yes, please!

Looking for something a bit lighter? The Coconut Chia Seed Pudding, topped with fresh strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, in-season kiwi, a bit of ripe mango, and sprinkled with Hemp Seeds, is surprisingly filling, totally satisfying, and just sweet enough to feel indulgent.
And, for those moments when that sugar-yearning really takes over, the homemade Cinnamon Rolls and the Dulce de Leche Biscuits are made fresh and are undeniably delicious. 

Okay, so Playa Provisions sure knows how to deliver. Still, there are top contenders for the best breakfast place, and a few are nestled comfortably on Abbott Kinney Boulevard in Venice… More on this soon!

Playa Provisions
119 Culver Blvd, Playa Del Rey, CA 90293, USA
Website

Love,

Shae

*Shae is our guest blogger from Los Angeles. An educator whose lust for experience influences her teaching, she travels with the desire to immerse herself in diverse cultures, seeking new adventure and inspiring others to engage with compassion and expand their world view. Follow Shae on Instagram! @seekvantage

Marina del Rey » The Hidden Gem of Los Angeles

When most people plan a visit to Los Angeles, they think of Hollywood and expect the fast pace of a big city: crowded sidewalks, bright lights, and busy restaurants and shops. And, it’s easy to see why so many are drawn to that exciting lifestyle, whether to live or just pass through. But, first timers to this vacation hot-spot without the guidance of a local resident might find that they come all the way to California and miss out on the most beautiful part of LA. Marina del Rey is nestled just south of Venice, California and is arguably Los Angeles’s best kept secret. A working marina and home to over 6,000 boats, it was finished in 1965 is the largest man-made marina in the United States. And, if you’re looking for a spot to sunbathe with half the crowd, the Marina del Rey Beach on the south side of the Venice Pier offers more untouched sands than you’ll find in Venice and Santa Monica.

If you’re lucky enough to spend some time exploring this area, here’s what you should plan to do:

1. Take a stroll around the beautiful, clean marina
Whether just stopping by or docked more permanently, the sailboats, powerboats, and yachts anchored in Marina del Rey are some of the most impressive on the west coast. If you have a free afternoon, head over to Fisherman’s Village and rent a small boat of your own to take out on the water and into the sunshine!

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2. Walk down Washington Boulevard toward the beach
Along this beachy street, you’ll find a mix of restaurants, bars, and boutique shops. Interested in some new swimwear? Want to pop into a yoga class? Or maybe you just want authentic Mexican tacos with a view. Either way, Washington Boulevard has it all (including some awesome opportunities for people-watching!)

3. Get a coffee from Cow’s End
A Marina del Rey/Venice must-visit, Cow’s End is a cool, beachy, privately-owned stop for coffee, juices, smoothies, and small breakfast or lunch bites. The cashiers and baristas are super-friendly locals, and if you look closely enough at the walls, you’ll see photos of what the area looked like more than 50 years ago (and the stashed “customer punch cards” belonging to the restaurant’s regulars so they can tally up points toward free drinks!) www.thecowsendcafe.com

‘Marina del Rey is a strong competitor for the area’s best hidden gem’

Cow's End Marina Del Rey

4. Wander north to Venice
One of the best parts about Marina del Rey is how close it is to so much of Los Angeles! Take a walk up the beach for a stroll along the famous Venice Boardwalk. It’s no surprise Venice Beach is the most visited beach in the United States; there you can find street performers, Muscle Beach, an always-busy skate park, and more restaurants serving fresh ceviche, fish tacos, and local beers and wines than you can count.

5. Relax with food and drinks at some of the best Happy Hours in town
While LA restaurants, particularly on the west side, offer too many Happy Hour specials to count, those in the marina come out on top. A local favorite is Killer Shrimp, with their signature cocktails (like “Pieces of Eight” and the “Westside”), spicy shrimp bowls, and a lobster mac and cheese that will keep you coming back for more. Then there are restaurant/bars like SALT (in Hotel Marina del Rey) and Beachside (in the Jamaica Bay Inn); these chic yet casual spots offer deals on food and drinks seven days a week! www.killershrimp.com

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Cocktails and Mac & Cheese at Killer Shrimp

View-Seeker Pro-Tips:
» When you’re ready for a bite to eat or something to quench your vacationer’s thirst, The Whaler on Washington Boulevard by the beach will provide both, along with a view of surfers and the pier!
» Headed a bit farther north? High rooftop restaurant, atop Hotel Erwin, gives you a bird’s-eye view of Venice’s local life.
» If you happen to make a new local friend who lives in one of the many Marina del Rey apartment buildings, like The Shores or Marina 41, be sure to head up to their roof for a view unlike any other in Los Angeles. From a high enough point in Marina del Rey, you can see the whole coastline (all the way up to Malibu!), as far east as Downtown LA, and even the famous Hollywood Sign!

One of the reasons Los Angeles is such a great vacation destination is because it has such a variety of neighborhoods for anyone’s personal taste. But, from Beverly Hills to Santa Monica, or Silverlake to Venice, Marina del Rey is a strong competitor for the area’s best hidden gem.

Love,

Shae

*Shae is our guest blogger from Los Angeles. An educator whose lust for experience influences her teaching, she travels with the desire to immerse herself in diverse cultures, seeking new adventure and inspiring others to engage with compassion and expand their world view. Follow Shae on Instagram! @seekvantage

This might be the coolest festival you’ve ever heard of » HABITAS

Are you a festival lover? Or maybe you hate festivals. Whichever type you are, you’re going to love this one. H A B I T A S.
At Our Habitas you become part of a community. It’s not the typical festival that you’re used to. No major line-up, no commercial bullshit.
Habitas is an LA born concept that has evolved into something amazing. They call themselves like-minded explorers brought together by appreciation and passion driven creativity, self expression and adventure. Something we can relate to at Wander-Lust.

There is something extraordinary that occurs when you place a like minded community in a environment full of just the right amount of care.

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Our Habitas Summer 2015

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Habitas at Spring

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The festival is small, exclusive and by invitation only. We understand why. You even need to fill in a short summary so that the organisation can check if you can be part of this special community. This way, the festival will keep it’s core values. 
If you do get an invitation, you will sleep in a bohemian setting, complete with tents, Moroccan cushions, rugs and dream catchers.
At Habitas, you are in for an unknown adventure. Just enter with an open mind and enjoy the setting, the music and the people.

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Habitas in Fall

Habitas is hosting different themes in different seasons. Summer, Spring, Fall and now the New Years preparations in Mexico are full on their way.
Founders Eduardo Castillo (also resident DJ) and Kfir Levy are doing an amazing job by keeping the festival small and non-commercial. Something that a lot of festivals are lacking. It’s a place for grown ups that dare to be themselves.
Let’s just hope they organize more events like these because with only 200 entrees it almost sounds like winning the lottery.

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More info on their website. Check this video for an impression.

Love,

Elke

*All pictures are owned by Habitas

USA Roadtrip » Part 1

It’s probably everyones dream: USA Road trip West Coast! Last October we finally made the dream a reality, packing up a RV and hitting the road in what would become a 1600-mile journey from LA to San Francisco via Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Death Valley & High Way 1. Read more