Thursday, July 22, 2010

Maple. Bacon. Donut.

If you were to ask me what my most memorable—and delicious—part of last weekend was, it would be this:

Yes, friends, a maple bacon donut: a deep-fried piece of buttery dough, topped with a glaze of sweet maple frosting and savory, hickory-smoked bacon bits. It was, in a word, heavenly.

Second to that might be what I ate after consuming the aforementioned donut:

A whole avocado, stuffed with an old-fashioned salad of chicken, pickled pink onions, apples and walnuts.

Last weekend, I played tourist (and gastronome) yet again in my own hometown. Only this time, it was in downtown L.A.

If you’re a native Angeleno like I am, or have lived here for at least 20 years or more, you probably remember downtown as I do: as a run-down metropolis of seedy parking lots and old brick buildings with crumbling facades, as well as home to one of the worst freeway interchanges in the entire U.S. (well, in my opinion, anyway).

Until a few years ago, downtown wasn’t much of a destination at all for tourists—or locals for that matter. It was where you went strictly to work, to have dim sum or ramen en route to a Dodgers game, to give into a craving for Philippe’s French-Dip sandwiches, or to score some authentic faux-designer duds (thank you, Santee Alley).

Now, however, a lot of things have changed. People actually live in downtown again—and in fancy, overpriced lofts. There’s a grocery store. There are dogs. There are babies in strollers. There are beautiful bars and eclectic restaurants. There is art. And there are maple bacon donuts.

What brought me downtown (aside from the donuts from the Nickel Diner) were the two newest hotels to open there: The JW Marriott Los Angeles at L.A. Live and The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles. It was the first time I had seen them since the opening of the JW Marriott way back in March. Before that, I toured the hotels on a hard hat tour, in preparation for a cover story that I wrote last year for work.

While I’ll save my formal review of the hotels for work, I’ll say this: Both properties—which happen to share the same building—are worth checking out, especially if you happen to be headed to the Staples Center or the Nokia Theatre or anywhere connected to L.A. Live. And, for my French macaron-loving friend, Tracy: The macarons in The Ritz-Carlton’s Club Lounge—offered in strawberry, lemon and pistachio flavors—are really addictive. (I regret not taking some home for you to try.) 

And even though I was only a few miles away from home, the weekend still felt like a mini break—and that of the best variety: one filled with good food, good drinks, good views and a good friend.