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LA (WEST HOLLYWOOD): SHUT UP. CACAO SMOOTHIE.

By Nora Zelevansky / July 11th, 2011

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As many of you may know, if you've hung out with me in the last six months, I've developed a somewhat bank account draining obsession with the smoothies from Earth Bar.  It's basically a high-end health food/vitamin store with hemp and almond milk smoothies that rock my world — the people are lovely, the smoothies are delicious and you get to feel virtuous cause it's all healthy and makes you pretty and stuff.  What more could you want?

There are other Earth Bar locations in Equinox gyms around the city, but the one I frequent is the only standalone location: If you find yourself in the neighborhood of Kings Road & Santa Monica, try the Radiant Skin, Amazon Immunity or the quinoa cereal with coconut — SO GOOD!  It's also sort of a secret celeb spot randomly.  Partially, I think I just love it because creamy milkshakes and smoothies have been a no-no for me, since I realized I was lactard.  Now I can actually eat them again thanks to almond and hemp milk!  Thank goodness for weirdo health food trends.

ANYWAY … after a Franklin Canyon hike this weekend with Andre and our friend A.L., she and I couldn't think of anything else but having one of those smoothies.  That's when she informed me that new(ish) nearby restaurant Eveleigh had hired a smoothie chef previously from Earth Bar to work during brunch.

This is a little embarrassing to admit, but Andre and I had dinner the night before with M. & P. at the same place.  The outdoor setting is great — all pretty, minimal/casual and outdoors.  I had a delicious Pisco Punch cocktail and we shared a salumi plate with fried bread and hot olives with haloumi (shut up!).

So, we decided to go for brunch too.  And I was more than glad that we did because I got to sample their Cacao Nut Date smoothie with young coconut meat, coconut water, sweet cacao nibs, cinnamon, vanilla stevia and vanilla hemp milk (above).  HOLY SHITE.  It's all I can think about now.  It's a bit grainy in kind of a yummy textured way and the cinnamon takes it over the top.  Damn.  I want one now.

A.L. said it reminded her of a healthier Frozen Hot Chocolate from Serendipity in NYC, which is HIGH PRAISE in my book.

Anyway, I wanted to cry and throw a tantrum when a server took my smoothie away with a sip left.  But I held it together.  Cause that's just how I roll.  I'm quite mature.  Also, I live close by.

xo – N.

LA (DOWNTOWN): THE BEST OXTAIL RAVIOLI AT NEW DRAGO CENTRO

By Nora Zelevansky / January 30th, 2009

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(Celestino joins the table, as these lovely ladies and I snap photos and pretend we're tourists–Do you like how my shirt kind of matches the water glasses?)

Some people envision an "Italian stallion" with rippling golden muscles and a swarthy seductive gaze.  Me, not so much.  I prefer a man whose passion is pasta.  SO, I hopped over to (and eventually rolled out of) Chef Celestino Drago's newest eatery, Drago Centro, Downtown this week.

If you're already a fan of his other locations, you'll be pleased, as the food is divine and the space is wide open and spacious.  Downtown's fine dining restaurants can sometimes feel corporate, I think, but this manages to escape that stuffy vibe.  (Or maybe I just drank too much wine?)

Speaking of which: Centro's charming sommelier, who searches out lesser poured wines (which, you know, we like since we're all about the hidden gems) is rife with knowledge, but not pretension.  FYI–he said if he had to drink one wine for the rest of his life it would be Riesling because of all the variety, so maybe we should adopt that position for table talk too?  I just LOVE a Riesling.  (Did that sound convincing?)

Anyway, I ate my way through a boatload of bread (I couldn't help it–the olive oil gets me every time), Buffalo Mozzarella with garlic oil and tomato puree (good for the lactards like me, who shouldn't do cow cheese), I Carciofi grilled artichoke salad with bronte pistachios, Oxtail Ravioli with celery roots and broth (which was flavorful and light) AND desserts from Doughnuts with Ricotta Cream to a homemade cookie plate.

But the highlight of the evening was definitely chilling out with Celestino himself, who–instead of being affected or, well, absent from the restaurant entirely–was front and center, hilarious and sweet as could be.  Actually, Celestino's family–some siblings from Italy and others from LA (with restaurants too)–were all in attendance.  Turns out the lot of them–six boys and two girls–grew up in Sicily, where his mother (reportedly an outstanding cook) prepared meals with ingredients farmed on their own land.  Um, can I move in?  (Not that I didn't love your "Daddy's Special Soup," Dad, but Campbell's Chicken Noodle and Tabasco does not a farm-to-table dinner make).

So that's where "Italian Stallions" come from.  I'll drink Riesling to that.

Cheers!

xo – N.