Chocolate, Richard Simmons, and Kosher Irish Food

Some nights are so awesomely random (I only use that word because my ex despised people saying, “That’s so random”) that they can not even be imagined. My Friday night was very much like that. Josie and I had been invited to an Industry Night at Madame Chocolat. It
doesn’t take expensive <ahref=”http://www.vistaprint.com/custom-banners.aspx“>banners</a> to tell us this was going to be a great night. I left the office early and Josie, well, took one for the team. She posted this on my FB wall, “Aw, I’m cursing your name as I’m sitting in traffic bc I left an hour after you did from the office. Your work ethic is inspiring. You would’ve made a good settler or pilgrim. 😉 See you in a bit, partner.” By the time I talked to her again, the traffic had beat her down and I decided to head to the event in Beverly Hills solo. We just wrote a post about the fun night we had in Beverly Hills and I was excited to return without all of the hype of Oscar Week. I have to say that I am SO impressed by the parking in Bev Hills at night. Why can’t WeHo be like this ample free parking and at most you are dropping $3, not bad for one of the most expensive zip codes. I parked and walked to the chocolate store and I saw Mastro’s was surrounded by paparazzi. I walked by, rolled my eyes, and then I spotted a man in a bright yellow blazer. I quickly turned around and it was the one and only Richard Simmons. The man that I have seen my late night favorite, David Letterman, spray with a fire extinguisher while he was in a chicken suit. It was also the man that my favorite shock jock, Howard Stern, offended until he walked out of the show crying. This man has seen a lot of abuse and yet he is the happiest and sweetest man I have ever encountered.

He asked if I wanted a picture. I said, “Yes please, Richard.” I took out my camera and he handed it to the paparazzi stating that, “Her mom just got out of prison and she needs this photo.” I laughed, we posed, and then he kissed me. I was thrilled. I walked in to the chocolate factory and store with that special glow. I saw EstarLA, ShopEatSleep, and Pleasure Palate and showed them all my camera before getting down to business. Of course, by business, I mean chocolate eating and wine drinking. Within seconds I had wine and bonbons.

I didn’t stick that strictly to the pairings because I was late and decided to eat and drink whatever was in front of me. I am a fruity girl so it was no surprise that the raspberry, passion fruit, and lime with white chocolate were my favorites. What I was surprised by was the chocolatier, Hasty Torres, who was tiny, gorgeous, and super accommodating. She made sure my chocolate and wine consuming was all caught up and Roaming Belly, another late arrival, and I got a private tour and sampling.

The store portion was charming and everything a little french girl can dream of in her Willy Wonka-esque fantasies. There were chocolate covered cheerios, marshmallows, display cases of goodness, and fresh chocolate chip cookies.

We were gathered in the back in the factory portion of the store. We saw the machines that chocolate coat everything from Nutter Butter’s to Oreos. The molds were all out and we wwere even being kept company by edible bunnies.

Over the course of the night with the wine and the chocolate, I saw a perfect Uncouth Gourmand Moment. A man spilled his wine all over a tray of chocolate. To be honest, I was jealous it wasn’t me. Not only because that action stands for everything I believe in but also because he got them all wrapped up and got to take them to go.

The night was so much fun but I have to say that I was most charmed by the fact that this chocolate shop, in the middle of the most hoity-toity block, was truly a family affair. Hasty’s mom decorated the store, her dad does the numbers, her brother does the web, and her hubby, well, he is Mr. Chocolate. She is married to the famous chocolatier Jacques Torres. It was a story of love and chocolate and it is the stuff romantic movies are made of. I talked to Hasty about the chocolate trends and she explained to me that while she may experiment at home and she likes Vosges and the other trendy chocolatiers, she intends to keep it classic in her store. I respect that and it was inspiring to see chocolate in it’s tried and true classic form. Hasty will be doing a chocolate workshop this Sunday that is open to the public. You may purchase tickets to the event here, if you are unable to attend stop by the shop and try some delicious chocolat.

I had already been kissed by Richard Simmons, eaten amazing chocolate, what was next for my Friday night? I was so touched by the Madame Chocolat family story that I hung out with my Downtown Jew Crew. It was now around 11 o’clock and that is just about the time my friends begin eating Shabbat Dinner. For this Shabbos they had an Irish theme. For the fish course there was Murphy’s steamed fish and for the meat course it was Kosher corned beef with braised cabbage, celery, and carrots in Guinness.

It was a fantastic Friday night that may seem like an odd mix but it all went beautifully together. What will this Friday bring? Oh yes, Gays & Dolls. The life of a UG is many things but boring it is not.

Cupcake Challenge: Who took the Cupcake?

This past Saturday was the Nesquik Cupcake Challenge at the Hollywood Renaissance Hotel thrown by our good friends at Drink-Eat-Play. I have put off writing this for the following reasons.

1. I am lazy
2. I have been waiting until the official winners are announced
3. Writing this will force me to look at a million cupcakes, something I vowed to not do for another month
4. I will have to remember all that I consumed on this fateful day

Josie was unable to attend this event due to work, so just as an FYI, I am blaming her for making me consume all of those deliciously sweet calories. Here was my experience on the day of the event.  I was planning on eating a sensible breakfast prior to arriving, but in typical Carina fashion I walked in to breakfast at 11 and asked if I could order off the lunch menu. One corned beef sandwich and french fries done and I had only three hours before the cupcake event. I drove home and napped and did 5 minutes on my treadmill pretending like that would help. I arrived at the Cupcake Challenge right at the start of the event and was handed my judging card. I thought I was important because I am a food blogger, but in true democracy my vote had the same weight as everyone else. I am all about one man and one vote. The first place I headed when I entered was the Polkadots cupcake stand. I wanted this for several reason. First, they won last years event and I wanted to support a local Pasadena store. Furthermore, I have tried to try their cupcakes numerous times and they are always closed when my sweet tooth acts up. They had a beautiful display and I finally got to see one of their famous cupcake cakes. Yup, these are all made of individual cupcakes.


The first cupcake I had of the day was the Lucky Charm, which was a perfectly moist pistachio cupcake. The other cupcakes devoured were a blur but there were some major highlights and I have decided to give unusual awards to mix up the challenge a bit. The most beautiful cupcake that unfortunately didn’t have the taste to match was the Salted Carmel from Tavern Restaurant, it was dusted with gold and a homemade macaroon was placed on top.

Another favorite of mine was the creative booze filled cupcakes from Speakeasy Sweets. They had an Amaretto Sour and an Irish Car Bomb cupcake. I am not crazy about either drink but I love the cupcake creativity and, well, everything is better with some hooch.

The best dressed cupcake server award went to the cute girls at Friandise Pastries.

My favorite cupcake display hands down went to Two Parts Sugar and I found it hilarious that they did a Naughty and Nice display and that a few hours in only the nice remained. Is this really the City of Angels?

Taste wise there were three cupcakes that absolutely blew (blue) me away. The first two were from the same bakery called Blue Cupcake. They had a Sweet & Salty Vanilla and a Pumpkin cupcake that had pumpkin bread stuffed with pumpkin mouse, cream cheese frosting, and topped with a toasted pumpkin seed brittle. I asked if Blue Cupcake had an actual store and apparently at the moment they are only serving at Farmers Markets.  The thing that sold me on both of the cupcakes submitted by Blue Cupcake was that the cupcake consistency, it was not too wet and not too dry. My other favorite was the last cupcake I tried, it was rose petal by Sugar Bliss Sweets in Santa Barbara. The actual cupcake was infused with rose water but it was this frosting that knocked my cupcake top off, it was perfection.

As you can see from my ballot those were all of my winners. Blue Cupcake’s Sweet & Salty vanilla for best traditional and they also took the cupcake on my judging for their Pumpkin cupcake in best original and the Rose Petal cupcake was the best overall.

The official results of the Cupcake Challenge are as followed:


Best Traditional
1st Place:  Big Man Bakes “Red Velvet”
2nd Place:  Blue Cupcake “Sweet and Salty Vanilla”
3rd Place:  Southern Girl Desserts “Red Velvet”

Best Original
1st Place:  My Delight Cupcaker “Breakfast Cake”
2nd Place:  Jus Minis “Caramel Banana”
3rd Place:  Two Parts Sugar “Chocolate Covered Strawberry”

Best Overall
1st Place:  Jus Minis “Caramel Banana”
2nd Place:  My Delight Cupcaker “Breakfast Cake”
3rd Place:  Two Parts Sugar “Chocolate Covered Strawberry”

I don’t want to disagree with the consensus but most people came in with their own cupcake tupperwares and boxes and grabbed one of each and exhibited something I don’t know a lot about, self-control. I am just saying that some people’s cupcakes looked like the main picture, placed beautifully into a box and consumed in a leisurely manner. That was not the case with me. I took instant bites and made this kind of a mess. Whatever, I am uncouth.

I know I am complaining about calories and too much sugar, but in all honesty it was a sinfully sweet time. I owe a big thanks to The Minty for being my cupcake sampling partner. I don’t have our official digital photobooth pictures but here is my picture from the picture.

Also, I want to give a big thank you to Drink-Eat-Play and to Quick. I have been referring to Quik the bunny as my new boyfriend. What’s so crazy about that? He is tall, dark, and handsome and goes at it like a rabbit. I would continue but this reminds me too much of that Funny Bunny Friday.

Eat My Blog: Bake Sale for a Cause

Eat My Blog Postcard

Ever wonder what all these bloggers in LA look like? Are you annoyed that people critique food but might have no ability to actually cook? Do you wish bloggers would unite for a great cause over the holiday season? Congratulations, readers, you are in luck!

On Saturday, December 5th from 10 AM to 4 PM Zeke’s Smokehouse in West Hollywood will play home to the first annual “Eat My Blog” bake sale. There will be more than 800 baked goods and all reasonably priced between $1-$3!  All proceeds from this delicious event will be donated to the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank.

Want to know what the UGs will be making/baking? Stay tuned….

Here is a list of all participating bloggers:

Anjali (http://deliciouscoma.com/)
Diana (http://dianatakesabite.blogspot.com/)
Laurie (http://gmasbakery.wordpress.com/)
Pat (http://eatingla.blogspot.com/)
Ben (http://bsideblog.com/)
Hong & Kim (http://ravenouscouple.blogspot.com/)
Esi (http://dishingupdelights.blogspot.com/)
Lisa (http://lisatimmons.com/)
Ashley (http://www.placeandtaste.blogspot.com/)
Kate (http://savour-fare.com/)
Chrystal & Amir (http://duodishes.com/)
Jessica (http://www.eatsipchew.com/)
Cathy & Vernon (http://gastronomyblog.com/)
Elyse (http://ehoblogs.blogspot.com/)
Liz (http://www.foodshethought.blogspot.com/)
Gaby (http://whatsgabycooking.com/)
Sonja (http://www.activefoodie.com/)
Carol (http://www.hungrypassport.blogspot.com/)
Sarah (http://www.sarahthebear.com/)
LA Times Food Blog (http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/dailydish/)
Jen (http://www.domdivas.blogspot.com/)
H.C. (http://la-oc-foodie.blogspot.com/)
Jo (http://mylastbite.wordpress.com/)
Matt (http://www.mattatouille.com/)
Andrea (http://laeasymeals.com/)
Nastassia (http://www.theletmeeatcake.blogspot.com/)
Amy (http://theroamingbelly.blogspot.com/)
Anisha (http://foodismynish.blogspot.com/)
Erica (http://blogs.laweekly.com/squidink/)
Liz (www.whiningndining.com)
Mary (www.foodlibrarian.com)
Josie & Carina (http://uncouthgourmands.com/)
Jennifer (http://www.peteeatemall.com/)

We’ll see you there, go get your sweet on!

Eat My Blog Logo

Celebrate Good Times

Veronica in LA, Social Domain LA, Uncouth Gourmand, LA OC Foodie

I officially finished grad school on Thursday, however, earlier that day (when I should have been completing my final), Josie and I had the deliciously wonderful job of being judges on Great Chefs of LA Webfire Challenges for 944 by Slife PR. It is a series where the best chefs in LA are given the same ingredients: butternut squash, pomegranate, salmon, tequila, and vanilla bean and a judge marks their attempts in terms of taste, creativity, and plating. We were thrilled to be judges on the episode featuring Jonathan Burrows of Mr. Cecil’s California Ribs. We had our own camera guy with us before, during, and after the show shoot. I think we got some very funny footage regarding the backstory, as soon it is edited we will share it with you.

Jonathan Burrows Mr Cecil's Sherman Oaks

This was the kind chef that had the unfortunate luck of creating a meal with the given ingredients in only 20 minutes and serving to a judging duo where only one of us was able to eat the salmon. He was as sweet and charming as can be and I liked that my wannabe chef jacket was cleaner than his. We won’t disclose too much about his dish or our judging as we are leaving it for the webisode but we will say it was a great experience. He sent out some of his famous ribs that the UGs devoured in no time. One of the funny things was when Josie asked the sous chef if the ribs were boiled first. He nodded in agreement. Later when we were talking to Jonathan, the Executive Chef, Josie mention that she liked that the ribs were boiled. He looked perplexed and said, “Who told you that? No one is supposed to know that…they are simply braised in water.” It was hysterical and leave it to the UGs to get the real scoop.IMG_3454

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After a top chef made a salmon dish and two plates of ribs for us we wanted some ice cream. We are disgusting. We headed to Sweet Harts in Sherman Oaks for fro-yo for Josie and sorbet for me. What do I love about this sweet shop? First of all, it is owned by my childhood idol, Melissa Joan Hart, or as I know her -Clarissa Explains it All. As a kid, who thought I was a teenager listening to Nirvana and Pearl Jam and with a health nut mom who made me eat carob instead of chocolate, she was the girl I related to most. Her shop is so cute and if I was 18 years younger I would totally want to throw my party in this Willy Wonka meets girly princess setting. Anyway, we wish her good luck on her shop and  on Dancing with the Stars. Also, we like, no love and find it ridiculously amusing, that they carry Desserts by Carnie Wilson.

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desserts by Carnie Wilson

sweet harts

After a long night in class and waking up in the wee hours of the morning and realizing that I had nothing to do, I was in absolute delight. I called my better half, Miss Josie, woke her up and demanded that she have lunch with me. Money has been tight, no restaurants have satisfied her lately, but I used my Jewish guilt to beg and plead until she agreed to lunch with me. After reading on both EatingLA and in Jonathan Gold’s article about the restaurant that our SGV pioneer and good friend  Sino Soul first reported on we knew that JTYH would be our lunching destination. After driving in the vortex that is San Gabriel, getting bad Google Maps directions, and looking for an ATM for 20 minutes, we were starved when we arrived at the restaurant. We ordered tofu noodles, the cucumber appetizer, scallion pancakes, beef fried noodles, pork dumplings, and the lamb noodle soup that everyone is going gaga over. I am not a huge lamb fan but I have to say everything that was served was perfection. The noodles are handcut and have such a beautiful texture that is just as good to eat as it is to look at. Josie described the broth as delightfully delicate. I had to stop during lunch and say, “There is nowhere else I would rather be at this moment than here, with you, eating this food.” It was so good that Josie had to stop and say she hasn’t been this satisfied in a long time and tweeted that it was better than sex. We are really not over selling this place, it is just that good and for how much we ordered plus two sodas and two boba milk teas we didn’t break the bank with a grand total of $27. The staff was accommodating, the food was perfect, and the prices were unbelievable. It was a truly satisfying amazing meal. We will let the pictures speak for themselves:

JTYH

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We were perfectly stuffed from lunch and if I was a smoker I would have a cigarette to mark this good meal. Our next step was to head to Best Buy, after an unsuccessful Walmart trip, to buy a Flip Cam. Yup, we are going to be the new YouTube sensations, move over cats that can play banjo. We rested our bellies for an hour and then headed out to our celebration that we had only planned earlier that morning on Facebook and Twitter.

What were we celebrating?
-I just finished grad school last night
-It’s my birthday on Monday
-Uncouth Gourmands is now a legitimate business
-Chuck, our business partner, has kindly offered up his office to the UGs as workspace if we need it. The UG global headquarters.

Here is our first video that we shot on the way to The Rockwell for a night of celebrating:

The Rockwell

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Uncouth Gourmand -LA OC Foodie

The night was wonderful and filled with many champagne cocktails, random cameos, and amazing Kahlua, cranberry, oatmeal, chocolate chip cookies made by our comic book writer Chris. We had LA writers and reporters: Veronica in LA and Social Domain LA. Food Bloggers: H.C. LA OC Foodie and Sino Soul. We also had the “Mayor of Downtown” and our Dating Sensei come by. It was a great mix of college friends, our intern, our real estate broker, and many more. Good times were had by all! Our friends know the kind of girls we are and at the end of the night our friend took us to his favorite Echo Park taco truck, “Tacos Ariza” it was very good and worth eating on crates and 3AM. When I first became friends with Josie she would spend the night at my house after a night of drinking and would be so relieved that it was me she was waking up next to. She would wake up and yell and then look at me and say, “Oh, thank god!” After my birthday festivities and waking up next to her in my own bed at 7AM, I completely understood the sentiment.

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Taco Truck Los Angeles Times - Uncouth Gourmand

Saturday night we took it somewhat easy heading to Big Foot Lodge and The Griffin for some fireplace side drinks and a lot of business brainstorming. After all, we are starting our “job” on Tuesday in our new “office”. However, we got one more celebration at the LA Chocolate Salon on Sundat. We went last year when we had no blog but we each had boyfriends. My oh my, times have changed and Thank God! This year we were prepared. I live only two blocks away and we decided to walk there so we could feel better about consuming massive quantities of chocolate, dessert wine, and chocolate liquor. Josie said on the way that she was nervous about how much she was going to eatt. I stupidly said, “just don’t eat that much.” She looked at me and laughed responding, “You know me, when I have ever been able to control myself?” Truer words have never been spoken and I am definitely included in the mix. We had two stand out favorites in the bunch. First, were CJ’s Stix, which were pretzels covered in chocolate, peanut butter, and toffee. Our friend, Dawson of Yelp LA correctly referred to it as crack. The second favorite was based mainly on the surprise element, it was a sizzling bacon chocolate bar by Christopher Michael. The surprise element was that it “sizzled” in your mouth…think pop rocks. We screamed with delight!

CJ Stix

Christopher Michaels Chocolate

We also voted in Le Cordon Bleu Chocolate Chef competition. I voted for the chocolate shoe designers Team 1 and Josie preferred the Tiki chocolate tower by Team 3.

Le Cordon Bleu chocolate

Chocolate Tower

We may have parted ways on the chocolate competition but we both staked out the Yelp table in hopes of winning a Yelp Elite lunchbox, which we just learned via Twitter that DerekThomasXXX won. Sadly, we did not win but we shot our second video using our new love, the Flip Cam. Don’t worry folks Monday is my actually birthday and Josie will be making me a nice romantic and well documented 5-Course dinner.

Beer and Dessert…Yes Please

Girls at Dessert Decadence

When I woke up on Friday, I really had no clue what I was going to do for the weekend. I knew I was going to see Josie sousin’ it up in Chef Ludo’s kitchen on Friday but that is where my plans ended. Josie and I are actually fairly booked up on weekends but this one was full of possibilities. We were thrilled when we got an email from Dan of Drink:Eat:Play offering us two great events on two weekend days. The first event was a charity event that involved beer and lots of it for a good cause. It was the Brew Haw Haw that benefited the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation on Saturday at the Autry. The second event was Dessert Decadence on Sunday hosted by Drink: Eat: Play.

Josie works at the Kitchen for Exploring Foods on Saturdays so I knew she wouldn’t be able to attend the beer event and invited my new Pasadena blogging friend, Christina, of Hot Pink Manolos. I had to promise her I wasn’t trying to make her my new bff after spending all of the night before with her. What can I say? She is a fun girl that likes to eat and drink, that is like everything I look for in a friend. She agreed to come but we were both hungover from all the wine the night before from Noir Food and Wine, Third Stop, LudoBites, and then I continued on to Tony’s for some whiskey. When she called I recommended we get some food first and took her to Huarache Azteca where I went with Josie earlier this month. It was delicious and she was stuffed but now we had a problem. We had 30 minutes to kill and didn’t want to be early for the Brew Haw Haw. I have a couple membership for the LA Zoo from an old relationship and recommended that we go there. It was excruciatingly hot but the Zoo is one of my favorite place you must read my review. The key to having fun at the zoo is embracing all of the complaining that you will hear/partake in. This kangaroo says it all:

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When we arrived at the Brew Haw Haw, nothing felt better than a nice cold one. There was a great announcer, a silent auction, a band, some snacks and food, and plenty of beer. Just sitting under an umbrella on a sunny summer day was perfection. My only complaint was having to get up to fill my glass. I am a cider lover so was a big fan of the Strongbow and raspberry cider booth, as a Chosen One I am a big fan of the Chosen Beer-He’Brew which had a booth, and as a girl with a great sense of smell (possibly part of being Jewish) I loved the lavender White Orchard beer from The Bruery. It was a great day and I was so happy to go and support a cause that is so serious. On a funny note I did find a guy there that was wearing a shirt that read: Sun’s Out, Guns Out!

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After beer and sunshine I was in need of a nap. I went home and rested and Josie made up for my beer fun by hitting up Lucky Baldwins in Pasadena for the dark artisan beers. She was a big fan of the x-mas strong ales. Don’t forget beer enthusiasts, Lucky Baldwins has their annual Belgian Beer Fest August 15th-30th. Anyway, I stayed home and purchased an airline ticket to Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City, and Tokyo in October for a graduation/birthday trip. FYI, I am totally ready and awaiting restaurant/food tips. The next day, Sunday, Josie went shopping in downtown and I had a school study group. We met at Hollywood & Highland about a half an hour before the Dessert Decadence event. I felt the need for real food and grabbed a hot dog before indulging in desserts. Dan thought it was hilarious that I thought hot dogs were “real food”. I found it hilarious that when I told Josie she said she just grabbed a bacon wrapped one in downtown and ate in on the way there. Josie found it hilarious that I brought my hot dog into the Louis Vuitton store and snuck bites when the guard wasn’t looking. We walked into the Renaissance Hotel and were so impressed by the giant room of sweets.

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Alright, on to the sweets! One of our favorites and the first thing we tried was the peanut butter and jelly rice krispy treat from Milk & Krunchies. Upon eating this I said, “Forget the bread, this is how all PB &J’s should be served!”

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Another favorite was the giant and shockingly moist red velvet cupcakes from Swirls Cupcakes. Double-points to the owner for friending me on Facebook before even meeting me.

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Our favorite display and flavor creativity came from Layers Cupcakes and their grapefruit and hibiscus cupcake. The thing that kept me hydrated throughout the event was the Naja iced tea. Imagine my happiness when I learned that Layers and Naja joined forces to create tea-infused cupcakes or CuppaTeacakes.

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We were also really into ice cream, gelato, and sorbet that day. The Strawberry Port Wine gelato from Paciugo and the cucumber sorbet from Carmela Ice Cream were delish! Another favorite of ours was the popcorn panacotta and the mango and coconut tapioca with a meringue on top from Cafe Del Rey.

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Josie is not that big of a dessert person and was sad with how much she was unable to finish. She kept saying,” If this was meat or cheese, I could do so much better!” I also managed to spill my favorite dessert at the exact time Josie took a picture of me. We do not make up our uncouthness.

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I also commented on how my hair was pulling a Josie, falling directly in front of my face. But one of our favorite parts of the event was meeting a magician named Derek Hughes. He did a lighter trick that made me scream and a card trick that made Josie yell, “Are you the Anti-Christ?” After he left with his girlfriend, I looked at Josie and said, “I want to have sex with a magician!” She nodded and without skippimg a beat replied, “Me too”

Anyway, it was a fantastic weekend brought to us by our new friend Dan-who is solely responsible for my social calendar. Get ready for his LA Sake Fest on August 15!

Also, if you were able to get tickets to Food GPS’s LA Beer Float Showdown you, too, were also able to enjoy a beer and dessert filled weekend.