Hot New LA Date Spot: Avant Garden Bistro

dining, Lifestyle, Travel

One of my favorite perks of living in Los Angeles is access to phenomenal restaurants. There’s always a hot new restaurant, sought-after chef, or inventive new dish coming on the LA dining scene, and I love being one of the first to experience it! I was so delighted when I was invited to attend the launch party for Avant Garden Bistro Los Angeles, as I knew the restaurant’s original outpost in New York was getting lots of buzz for its creative vegan cuisine and beautiful atmosphere. Avant Garden Bistro is Overthrow Hospitality‘s first foray into the LA dining scene, and the founder Ravi DeRossi, a 2022 James Beard nominee, has received lots of recognition for his mission and reverence for plant-based dining.

Place Setting at Avant Garden Bistro’s Midsummer Night’s Dream Launch Party

The launch party was themed Midsummer Night’s Dream, so I took the opportunity to wear a whimsical summer dress by Banjanan that I purchased at one of my favorite stores in San Marino, Serafina.

Wearing the Bonnie Abstract Print Tiered Cutout Organic Cotton Dress at Midsummer Night’s Dream launch party at Avant Garden Bistro

Before my TV hosting life, I worked in the hospitality industry as a publicist representing some of the most prestigious hotels and restaurants around the world, and I’ve continued to always have an interest in seeking exceptional dining experiences. Giving you that background was my nice way of saying that I’m a bit of a hospitality snob! With that in mind, I want you to know that Avant Garden Bistro nailed everything – the food, ambiance, and service were all top notch!

FOOD

My favorite thing about the vegan cuisine at Avant Garden Bistro was that Chef Sarah Sterns wasn’t trying to mask the plants in her dishes or turn them into something they’re not. Personally, I’ve never been into eating faux hamburgers, so it was refreshing to see gorgeously plated plants and taste Chef’s extraordinary flavor combinations. I genuinely love eating vegetables and enjoy finding new ways to cook and eat them at home, so dining at Avant Garden Bistro was a fun and tasty exploratory experience for me!

Eggplant Toast at Avant Garden Bistro Los Angeles

The vegan tapas menu is divided into three sections: “Toast,” “Cold,” and “Hot.” At the launch party, three of the toasts were passed for us to sample as we arrived and waited to be seated for dinner. We tried the Cremini Toast with walnut puree, red grape and calabrian chili, Eggplant Toast with pickled apricots, miso and parsley, and the English Pea Toast with pickled hon shimeji, tahini, balsamic and basil. My favorite of the three was the Eggplant Toast. The sweet pickled apricots combined with the savory miso provided a rich umami sensation.

Roasted Carrot at Avant Garden Bistro Los Angeles

Once we were seated for dinner, we were served a variety of “Cold” and “Hot” dishes. Standouts on the “Cold” menu were the Shaved Brussels, made with turmeric goddess, dried currant and almonds (perfect if you want something that feels like a light salad), and the Avocado with sushi rice, carrot ginger dressing, blistered shishito, and miso glaze, which is reminiscent of an addicting sushi roll. My favorite of the “Hot” dishes was the Roasted Carrot with pistachio chermula, spring onion soubise and blood sorrel. It was unlike any carrot dish I’ve eaten before with unique flavor combinations and so filling! Another standout was the Smoked Bok Choy with sourdough fritter, succotash, and soy citrus butter. This dish reminded me of my southern roots with the fritter and succotash. This also was a hearty tapas dish that left me very satisfied. Some people believe that they can’t get full at tapas or vegan restaurants, but I promise that you will not leave hungry here!

DRINKS

Avant Garden Bistro specializes in wine-based cocktails and natural wines. The wine-based cocktails are by Master Mixologist Sother Teague from Amor Y Amargo and showcase a variety of unique flavors. My favorite was the floral Green City cocktail, made with dry vermouth, cucumber juice, lime juice, saffron, and dry white sparkling wine, but I also found the Vista Sour, made with carpano antica, lemon, blood orange, cacao nib bitter and vanilla, to be very interesting and worth a try for anyone looking for an adventurous cocktail!

Vista Sour cocktail at Avant Garden Bistro Los Angeles

Curated by Master Sommelier Brett Zimmerman, the wine list is comprised of natural, sustainable wines. We sampled a variety of wines, and the 2019 Porta Del Vento ‘Luna Calante’ from Sicily stood out to me the most with its amber color and that tasted deep and fresh at the same time. It worked well with all the plant-based tapas, and I could see myself enjoying sipping this wine in summer and winter.

My favorite wine, 2019 Porta Del Vento ‘Luna Calante’, at Avant Garden Bistro Los Angeles

DECOR

Avant Garden Bistro’s stunning outdoor patio gives guests the feeling of dining in a secret garden. Designed by veteran set designer Andrew Nowling, the space offers guests the opportunity to dine under the stars in an enchanted atmosphere adorned with twinkling chandeliers, mysterious statues and murals, and lush florals. It’s the perfect romantic space for a date night!

Gorgeous outdoor patio at Avant Garden Bistro Los Angeles

Inside, the restaurant resembles an upscale French bistro with plush red velvet dining booths and ornate lighting, yet still feels like an intimate neighborhood watering hole. This is where you grab a drink and a couple tapas with friends after work. Live music throughout the evening, including a beautiful harpist and bassist, and the restaurant’s friendly staff added to the evening’s magical atmosphere.

Interiors at Avant Garden Bistro Los Angeles
Fabulous service from staff who fit the whimsical atmosphere at Avant Garden Bistro Los Angeles

RESTAURANT DETAILS

  • Website: www.avantgardenbistro.com
  • Instagram: @avantgardenbistro_la
  • Location: 7469 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90046
  • Phone: (323) 433-4141
  • Hours: Tuesday to Thursday: 5:00-11:00 p.m. | Friday and Saturday: 5:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m. | Sunday and Monday: Closed
  • Reservations: Via Seven Rooms here

There was no detail overlooked at Avant Garden Bistro’s Los Angeles launch party, and I can’t wait to come back for a date night! Even if you’re not vegan, anyone will enjoy exploring Avant Garden Bistro’s creative food and drink menu in the restaurant’s spectacular atmosphere.

Would you try this new vegan tapas restaurant? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to connect with you on Instagram and TikTok where you can find more content related to dining, travel and lifestyle!

XO Maggie

AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE: Some of this post contains affiliate links for the products I use and LOVE. If you take action on these links (like clicking, buying, etc.), I may receive compensation at no cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own, and I’ll only recommend what I truly love. For more information about affiliates and your privacy, view our Terms & Conditions page here.

Kid-Friendly West Hollywood: The Best Dining, Hotels and Activities for Families in WeHo!

Lifestyle, Travel

I had so much fun speaking with Tracy Paaso and Felicia Terwilliger, hosts of the “We Know WeHo” podcast, about all things family related in West Hollywood! One of my biggest hopes in using this platform is to be a helpful resource to parents with young children. As a mommy with two little ones, I know firsthand how overwhelming and challenging it can be to make the transition from being young, fun and childless to a responsible new parent. I was one of the first of my friends to have kids and had no idea what to expect from parenthood, in addition to having no clue where to take my children in L.A.! Now, after a few years of experience, I’m here to help you find the best for families in Los Angeles – and, in this case, West Hollywood! Read on to learn more about my history with West Hollywood, and I’ll also recap all the kid-friendly restaurants, shops, hotels and activities that I mentioned in my interview on the “We Know WeHo” podcast! Read more about this podcast episode on Wehoville.com!

My West Hollywood Story

I absolutely love West Hollywood. During my 13+ years in Los Angeles (over 10 years living here and 3 years visiting), I have spent lots of time in West Hollywood. When I was single, it was a hotspot for nightlife, dining, and parties. My girlfriends and I used to love going to Skybar at Mondrian Hotel, The Belmont, Rock & Reilly’s, Pink Taco and the now closed Hyde Lounge, Pearl’s Rooftop, Bagatelle, and The Hudson. Once I started dating my now husband, we loved date nights at Laurel Hardware, Eveleigh, Katana Robata & Sushi Bar, Ysabel, and STK Steakhouse (which has now relocated to STK Westwood). Even after kids, date nights and group dinners with friends are always memorable in WeHo, especially at Catch, Cecconi’s, Gracias Madre, Toca Madera, and E.P. & L.P.

Before Kids! My 30th Birthday in West Hollywood at Toca Madera

West Hollywood is a fun destination for live entertainment. The music scene is legendary on the iconic Sunset Strip, and my husband I have spent lots of time there before and after kids watching live music and even playing live music — my husband used to play bass guitar in a local band! I’ve watched my husband play at The Viper Room and The Roxy, and we’ve seen some phenomenal shows at The Troubadour and Whisky A Go-Go. Our favorite date nights involve a comedy show, and there’s always top talent at Laugh Factory and the Comedy Store!

West Hollywood is a fabulous destination for working professionals, too, with its multiple co-working spaces and walking accessibility to so many great restaurants and shops! In 2017, I started my own PR business and bought-in at a co-working space called The Wing, which is the perfect place for working moms. The Wing is dedicated to inclusivity and lifting up women in the workforce, and the West Hollywood location was a great place for me to network with other working mommies and attend inspirational events hosted by top women in their respective industries. I once attended a screening and Q&A with Maggie Gyllenhaal that discussed her show “The Deuce” and focused on women in film and media’s portrayal of women. It was really cool! The Wing also has beautiful pump rooms for breastfeeding moms, and I’ve often seen strollers and children wandering around the space while moms work. I gave up my membership during the pandemic to create my own work-from-home space, but prior to the pandemic, The Wing offered “The Little Wing” which was a playroom and babysitting service. I’m not sure if they still have that now, but it was such an outstanding perk for moms – and kids!

Kid-Friendly West Hollywood

When most people think of West Hollywood, they imagine the very adult version of the city with its sexy dining, nightlife and music scenes, but I’m here to tell you that West Hollywood can be a very fun destination for kids, too! Below are the best restaurants, hotels, parks and activities that I mentioned in my “We Know WeHo” podcast interview with Tracy Paaso and Felicia Terwilliger. For all the juicy details on each business, you’ll have to take a listen to the podcast! Since Felicia is currently pregnant, we also discussed some of the best places for moms for prenatal and postpartum self-care! Check out the best WeHo businesses for families listed below, and take a listen to the podcast here! The podcast is also on Apple, Spotify and Google podcasts. My interview starts around the 35-minute mark.  

Enjoying the patio at Hugo’s while we wait for our food

Restaurants:

  • Hugo’s – Expansive menu for adults and great menu for kids! They provide crayons for coloring while you wait for your food! My kids like the macaroni and cheese and sitting on the patio!
  • Mel’s Drive-In – Fun classic diner! Kids food comes in car boxes!
  • Bottega Louie – Kids love the pastries!
  • Justin Quesos – Not necessarily designed for kids, but Tex-Mex is my favorite and kids live the queso and quesadillas! Go early for a more family-friendly atmosphere.
  • Shake Shack – Kids love the fries and frozen custard! Mommy and daddy love the burgers!
  • Carney’s – Iconic LA restaurant in a train car – so fun for kids!
  • Urth Caffe – We enjoy sitting on the patio. Or, you could get the food to go and make the 10 minute walk to Hollywood Park for a picnic!

Shops:

  • Eggy – Not technically in WeHo city limits, but serves many WeHo families with fashionable kids clothes and accessories.
  • Sunset Kids – High-end kids hop – great for gifts and novelty items!

Hotels:

  • Le Parc Suite Hotel – Recently renovated with colorful, artistic decor. All guest rooms are expansive suites with kitchenettes, fireplaces and sleeper sofas, so it is easy for families to make the hotel feel like home. Rooftop pool and rooftop tennis court are nice places for fun and recreation! While most WeHo hotels aren’t necessarily geared toward younger children, Le Parc Suite Hotel and it’s sister properties, Chamberlain and Montrose, are great for kids with their large suites, rooftop pools, access to house bikes and walkability to some of the best restaurants and shops in the U.S.!
  • Ziggy – Not exactly kid-friendly, but an awesome newly renovated property on the Sunset Strip to have a couples staycation without the kids! 

Classes:

  • BOUNCE LA –  An outdoor soft play gym and obstacle course led by fun coaches! Classes are not currently held at any WeHo parks, but they cater to a lot of West Hollywood families at their Coldwater Canyon location. The amazing coaches also host kids birthday parties in local families’ backyards and offer programs for schools!
  • PLAY Music & Art – A great selection of classes for your little artist or musician. This is another business that’s located on the edge of WeHo but serves many WeHo families. They also offer online classes, so you can utilize their classes anywhere!
  • West Hollywood Library Smarty Pants Class – Wonderful music and storytime class that helps prepare little ones for preschool and kindergarten.

Parks:

  • West Hollywood Park – Undergoing a massive renovation that includes a brand-new playground and aquatics center. This will be a fabulous place to take kids once its complete later this year!
  • Kings Road – Quiet, shaded park with a small play structure. Best suited for toddlers.
  • Plummer Park – Nice, small park for a picnic or to play tennis.
Playtime at Kings Road Park

Estheticians for Prenatal and Postpartum Self-Care:

  • SkinLab – Owner Joshua Ross saved my skin from pregnancy’s hormonal acne! He used to be based in WeHo when I was pregnant, but he’s now is located in West LA and South Bay.
  • Dermalogica – This flagship location recently opened in WeHo and has been a great place for postpartum skincare.

Family-Friendly Day Trips From WeHo:

  • Kidspace Museum – An amazing place for children to play and explore in Pasadena!
  • Exposition Park – The California Science Center is a great place for kids to explore and learn!
  • Griffith Park’s Travel Town – If your children love trains, they’ll get a huge kick out of this museum with several old locomotives to explore! There’s also a mini train ride!

Not Mentioned in the Podcast:

  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art – Just outside WeHo city limits, LACMA’s Boone Children’s Gallery hosts drop-in painting classes where their friendly staff provides tips on brush techniques. They even provide high chairs for our littlest artists! They also offer teen classes and camps that you can sign up for on the website. Kids under 17 can join their youth membership called NexGenLA where they can visit the museum anytime for free with a guest for free admission. Even babies can join!
  • The Grove – One of LA’s most beautiful outdoor shopping destinations, The Grove caters to many West Hollywood families (and all families across the LA!). It’s such a fun place for little ones with its trolley and fountains. My favorite restaurants at The Grove with kids are Blue Ribbon Sushi, Umami Burger and The Cheesecake Factory. Everyone loves a special treat from Sprinkles Cupcakes! The Grove has one of my most favorite children’s stores, Janie & Jack, along with a Nordstrom and Gap that offer clothing for kids of all ages.
  • Yardbird Restaurant – Located on the edge of WeHo at The Beverly Center, this is a tasty restaurant with a great kids menu! They serve elevated American classics like fried chicken, shrimp & grits, St. Louis style ribs and grilled blackened salmon. I love their brunch here!

What did I miss? Tell me your favorite family-friendly West Hollywood spots in the comments below or connect with me on Instagram at @maggiehjackson!

6 Last-Minute Holiday Gift Ideas for Mom from Mom-Owned Businesses in the LA-OC Area

beauty, fashion, Holidays, Lifestyle, Mom & Baby, Travel

I’m so excited to share this list of great gift ideas for mom from some of my favorite mom-owned businesses in the LA-OC area! In addition to sharing the list below, I’m featuring these gifts LIVE on KTLA Morning News in Los Angeles today, Dec. 22, 2021 at around 11:45 a.m., and I’m so hopeful you’ll tune in! *UPDATE* If you missed the live TV segment, you can view the recorded version here.

Monogrammed Travel Bag from The Monogrammed Home in San Marino

Okay, so… You made your list, checked it twice, and… Oops! You STILL need a gift for mom!!

This is when some of you will quickly run to Target to find a mug that says “MOM” or grab whatever overpriced, picked-over item you can find at Tiffany’s or Nordstrom. Don’t be one of those people wandering blankly around the big chain store only to get mom ANOTHER robe or slippers. Didn’t you get her that last year? Crap, you can’t remember!

Y’all… Don’t do this to mom! Yes, those gifts mentioned above are nice… I have thoroughly enjoyed every robe I’ve been gifted… BUT!!! (This is an important “but,” thus needed additional emphasis) … I need y’all to think of what kind of gift mom really deserves after what she has been up to this holiday season…

Those holiday cards your friends and family received? She designed, signed, and addressed those… Not to mention she licked all 75 envelopes!

Your kids’ reindeer antler headband, the “holiday themed red sweater,” and new dress shoes (grew out of last year’s shoes) that their teacher required you to buy and have your child wear for their school holiday performance… MOM.

Who coordinated the family holiday outings? Photos with Santa, holiday lights show, kids’ museum holiday activities, etc., etc. … MOM.

Who made cookies for Santa? Sure, the kids helped… But, it was probably MOM who had to set it up and clean it up! ALL THOSE SPRINKLES AHHH!!!

Gifts for your neighbors, extended family, newspaper delivery person, mail carrier, kids’ teachers, etc… MOM!!

All the dang wrapping… MOM.

And who usually makes Christmas Eve dinner and/or Christmas Day brunch as everyone enjoys their new gifts or watches football… not always but usually MOM!!!

The exception to all these tasks listed above is a mom who has an incredibly helpful and/or available partner, a mom who has the financial means to outsource everything, or the mom who just stopped giving a F—! Nevertheless, the holiday hustle can get to any mom no matter the level of support she receives.

SO, LET’S HOOK MOM UP THIS YEAR, Y’ALL! Let’s get her something that’s truly unique and thoughtful while also supporting a local MOM-owned business!

REASONS TO BUY FROM A LOCAL MOM-OWNED BUSINESS:

  • Shopping local is a great way to give back to your community where you live and want to see prosper. Local stores tend to keep their profits local, hire local employees, and donate to local charities and organizations.
  • It’s the best shopping method to limit your environmental impact. There’s less shipping and typically more local products available, so less transportation needed.
  • The experience is unmatched! You’ll have the opportunity to personally connect with a member of your community who really cares about their customers! Also, the knowledge of their products is superior to some of the big box chains that hire seasonal employees. Because they’re passionate about their products and filling a need in their community, local business owners often go the extra mile to make sure you are a happy customer!
  • If you love your mom, you’ll also love supporting another local mom. Imagine your own mom putting her blood, sweat and tears into a business on top of all her mom-ing… That is one bad mother!
  • Interesting products! Local businesses sell products that fulfill the interests of the owner and the owner’s customers. They are not limited to some national chain store’s sales and marketing plan, so you’ll often get some really unique and special product options!
  • It’s hard to trust last-minute shipping these days with all the supply shortages and shipping delays we’re seeing on the news. When you shop local, you’re typically perusing all the products currently in stock, so you don’t have to worry about your gift not making it to mom before Christmas.

Now that I’ve convinced you that shopping at a local, mom-owned business is the way to go, below is a list of my favorite gift ideas from mom-owned businesses in Southern California. These business stretch from Sunset Beach to Montrose, and all have ways to secure gifts in these last couple days leading up to Christmas. I’ve included gift ideas for every type of mom – the new mom, the expecting mom, and moms who love wine, traveling, skincare and wellness.

6 Holiday Gift Ideas for Mom from Local Mom-Owned Businesses:

FOR THE EXPECTING MOM

Cleobella Taylor Mama Bag in Cognac

Cleobella Taylor Mama Bag

This leather bag is so chic and high-quality that you’d have no idea it’s actually a diaper bag! Perfect for the stylish new mom who doesn’t always want to look like she’s hauling around baby gear! The braided detailing on the handle and zipper pulls is gorgeous, and it comes in three different colors (black, moccasin and cognac) to fit any mom’s style. I personally love how this bag is well designed for versatility. You can wear it as a backpack, crossbody, or with your hands for style and convenience. Multiple pockets are large enough to hold all the essentials. I can even squeeze my laptop into it in case I need to mix work with mom life. I fully intend to carry this bag even when we’re out of the diaper phase! Cleobella was founded by a SoCal mom, along with her husband, who desired ethically handmade fashion inspired by her global travels. The brand is deeply rooted in its commitment to sustainability and employment that uplifts independent artisans around the world. One percent of every purchase goes back to charities that support our planet and people who need it most. 

How to Buy: The Taylor Mama Bag is available to purchase in-person at the Cleobella boutique in Sunset Beach located at 16792 14th St Sunset Beach, CA 90742. The boutique will be open from 10a.m. to 5 p.m. on Dec. 22-23. The company website www.cleobella.com offers expedited shipping options from their local headquarters, in addition to e-gift cards for those extra last-minute shoppers. Be sure to use the code KTLA at checkout for 20% off your order! The code is good through December.

FOR THE NEW MOM

Saranoni Mommy-and-Me Matching Luxury Blankets at Babies, Bellies & Bosoms

Keep mama and baby cozy this winter with luxury matching blankets from Saranoni found at Bellies, Babies & Bosoms in Montrose. Saranoni’s Bamboni Collection is made from bamboo fibers that are converted to rayon, so the blanket’s cloud-like fabric is light, breathable, stretchy, and as soft as ever! When you’re snuggled up with this blanket, “you’ll feel like you’re wrapped in a cupcake!” said Laura, the owner of Bellies, Babies & Bosoms. The blankets will undoubtedly bring comfort and warmth to mommy and baby this holiday season, and I’m obsessed with the idea of giving a matching mommy-and-baby gift to a new mom! The blankets come in a variety of colors and patterns to match mom’s style and home. If you purchase the “Mudcloth” print, Saranoni will donate a portion of proceeds to Well-Africa, an organization that strives to end child slavery, build schools, and educate children in West Africa. Love a gift that gives back!

How to Buy: Saranoni’s Bamboni Collection of blankets are available to purchase at Bellies, Babies & Bosoms in Montrose, a quaint historic community just north of Glendale. I love this shop because it was founded by a mom in 2003 with the passion to promote breastfeeding, support new mothers and be a sanctuary for all motherhood needs. She carries so many special gifts for new parents and babies! Bellies is located at 2430 Honolulu Avenue, Montrose, CA 91020 and will be open from 11 a.m.–5 p.m. on Dec. 22-23 and from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Dec. 24.

FOR THE BEAUTY LOVING MOM

Tinted Lip Jellies from Facile Dermatology and Boutique

Just in time for the holidays, Facile launched its fan-favorite lip moisturizer in a collection of brand-new Tinted Lip Jellies with a plumping complex that instantly boosts hydration and leaves lips looking fuller, firmer, and more defined with each wear. The Tinted Lip Jellies come in three effortless shades: Rose, Rouge, and Berry. I tried all three shades and each of them looked good on my skin tone, but my favorite is the Rose to wear every day for a very natural look. Glossy but never sticky, the Tinted Lip Jellies soften and condition lips with a long-lasting, hydrating blend of Peptides, Jojoba Oil, and Essential Fatty Acids, leaving lips with a wash of beautiful color. Not only are these lip jellies amazing for your lips, every purchase goes toward an amazing cause! Throughout the month of December, Facile will be donating 20% of all Lip Jelly sales to NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) which provides advocacy, education, support, and public awareness so that all individuals and families affected by mental illness can build better lives. Co-founded by skincare-obsessed entrepreneur and mom Danielle Nadick Levy and board-certified dermatologist Dr. Nancy Samolitis. Facile opened in 2016 and quickly garnered a celeb following from beauties like Mandy Moore, Lucy Hale and Dove Cameron. If you really want to win big with mom, accompany the Lip Jellies with a gift card for mom to get a personalized treatment at Facile. They do it all from mini facials to fillers to microneedling and PRP injections! Perfect for any beauty or skincare loving mama!

How to Buy: Facile has two locations in West Hollywood (8457 Melrose Place, Los Angeles, CA 90069) and Pasadena (140 S. Lake Ave., Suite 104, Pasadena, CA 91101) where the products can be purchased on Dec. 22 or 23.

FOR THE WINE ENTHUSIAST MOM

Aervana Travel Aerator from Emerald Forest Gifts

This brand-new Travel Wine Aerator from Aervana is perfect for any wine lover who loves to travel or simply save space at home (glass decanters don’t travel well and take up lots of space!). This aerator is small enough to fit in your purse or drawer, plus, it comes with a cute carrying case and corkscrew. At the touch of a button, it turns tannic wine into smooth-as-velvet liquid in seconds! Simply attach the single tube that accompanies the Aervana Travel to the body of the aerator, slip it over an open wine bottle, and press the button on top.  Perfect for travel, road trips, the beach, picnics – anywhere! To be honest, my husband and I love this aerator so much that we use it at home most of the time!

How to Buy: Get the Aervana Travel Aerator before Christmas at mom-owned Emerald Forest Gifts in the San Fernando Valley located at 12638 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604. The owner, Michelle, started Emerald Forest Gifts in 1987 and is celebrating the store’s 36th Christmas Season! Known for carrying unique, elegant gifts for all occasions, Emerald Forest will even gift wrap your gift to make it easy for you to give to mom! Her shop will be open from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 22-23 and from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 24.

FOR THE WELLNESS WARRIOR MOM

Juna Essential Roller Set

If mom is always looking to optimize her wellbeing (or if she simply needs some help chilling out this holiday season – LOL!), Juna’s new essential oil rollerballs offer a therapeutic mood lifting experience throughout the day. The Essential Roller Set from Juna includes three nanoparticle mood-shifting rollerballs – Balance, Nightcap and Ease – designed with a complex blend of scientifically proven functional botanicals that will reset the mind and shift mood. Roll on temples, behind the ears, wrists, breathe deep and experience the mood shifting benefits.  The Balance helps you feel awake and clear; the Nightcap helps ease you into a deep sleep; and the Ease can help you shift your mood from overwhelmed to calm and relaxed. They are great for daily use, for on-the-go, fast, effective relief. Based in Dana Point, Juna creates plant powered products with over 40+ active botanicals that solve the stress, anxiety, and sleep issues women are facing daily. The wellness company was founded by two busy career women and mothers seeking an effective solution to optimize their every day.

How to Buy: The rollers are available to purchase with expedited shipping for Christmas on juna-world.com. If you use code KTLA at checkout, you’ll get 20% off your order! The code is good through December. Perfect time to consider getting Juna’s bestselling Nightcap drops, too! Juna also sells several of its plant-powered solutions in Erewhon markets.

FOR THE WELL-TRAVELED MOM

Personalized Jewelry Round and 3-Piece Travel Set from The Monogrammed Home

Nothing is more thoughtful than a personalized gift, and The Monogrammed Home can help you secure these monogrammed travel cases just in time for Christmas! I love this adorable Seersucker Jewelry Round and 3-Piece Stacking Set that can be used for toiletries, makeup, hair accessories, and whatever you can fit, ready to be monogrammed with mom’s name or initials! I also love the idea of monogramming the 3-piece set to stay organized around the house with labels like, “cords,” “sunscreen,” “vitamins,” “safety pins,” etc. The stacking set is available for $78 and comes in 7 different colors. The jewelry rounds are available for $38 and come in four different colors. Pricing includes monogramming, and customers can choose from over 100 monogram and font options and over 50 thread colors! You’re sure to find a style that mom will love! The Monogrammed Home is one of my most favorite gift shops close to my home! The shop offers a variety of thoughtful, personalized home and lifestyle gifts for everyone in your life. I seriously get every special occasion gift from this shop! The shop was founded by two sisters in 2014, who are now mothers.

How to Buy: Available online at the-monogrammed-home.com, by phone (626) 405-1153, or at The Monogrammed Home located at 2556 Mission St., San Marino, CA 91108. KTLA viewers will not incur a rush charge for purchases of the Jewelry Round or Stacking Set. Purchases placed today (Dec. 22, 2021) by 3 p.m. will be ready for pick up tomorrow (Dec. 23, 2021) between 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Gift cards also are available to purchase. 

The Taylor Mama Bag from Cleobella is a perfect gift for an expecting mom!

MOMS! Which of these gifts would you like to receive? Let me know in the comments below, or connect with me on Instagram at @maggiehjackson!

AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE: Some of this post contains affiliate links for the products I use and LOVE. If you take action on these links (like clicking, buying, etc.), I may receive compensation at no cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own, and I’ll only recommend what I truly love. For more information about affiliates and your privacy, view our Terms & Conditions page here.

Best New LA Restaurants for Date Night (Plus, What to Wear!)

fashion, Lifestyle, Travel

After 18 months of homeschooling, Zoom-ing, and being stuck at home with the kiddos during this crazy pandemic, parents are more than deserving of an adults-only night out!

And, you’re in luck! Quite a few superb restaurants have opened in LA during the pandemic despite the hospitality industry’s struggle to maintain strong business in the rollercoaster of lockdowns and quarantines. These new restaurants on my list are so good that they’re not just surviving during these unsteady times – they’re thriving!! So, in addition to our need to escape repetitive (and exhausting!) parental duties, exploring one of these awesome new hot spots is another great reason for you to get out of the house with your S.O.!

But OMG what do we wear out these days? I don’t know about you, but most of my pandemic time with kiddos has been spent in yoga pants! I absolutely LOVE a good excuse to get dressed up, and as dining establishments continue to reopen, I’ve been so excited shopping for new looks to wear out on date nights on my fave e-retail site REVOLVE! If you’re stumped on what to wear, I’ve included some date night outfit ideas for each restaurant below!

Here are my top six new restaurants in Los Angeles for date night!

  1. Saso, Pasadena
My kind of cocktail: Txolo Squinkles made with tequila, mezcal, poblano liqueur, lime, grapefruit

Located in the historic Pasadena Playhouse, the new Saso serves Basque-inspired coastal cuisine, creating the perfect balance of century-old traditions mixed with farm-fresh fare. Everything at Saso is beautiful, fresh and vibrant — the open-air atmosphere, the flower adorned cocktails, the luscious crab claws and melt-in-your-mouth Wagyu steak. Make sure you start with the croquettes and fried oysters. Not only are they perfectly prepared, but their dipping sauces are addictingly yummy! My only knock on this place is that I thought it was a bit overpriced, but it’s much cheaper than taking a trip to Spain so WORTH IT!

What to Wear to Saso: Saso has a very California casual vibe, so go for something that feels bohemian chic. You’ll feel cool in a puff sleeve black top and high-rise black jeans. Throw a leather jacket over your shoulders if you sit on the patio. Shop this look here.

2. Agnes, Pasadena

Barbecued Pork Collar – honey mustard marinated, apricot mostarda, pink peppercorns

At Old Town Pasadena’s newcomer Agnes, gastronauts will love the open kitchen where they can interact with the chefs creating hearty proteins from the hearth. The best spot for date night, though, is the airy back patio where you can linger over beautiful cheese and meat boards and scratch-made pastas while sipping locally inspired cocktails, like the Descanso (mezcal, Luxardo, green chartreuse, lime, serrano chili) and the Tournament of Roses (aperol, fresh watermelon, Cremant, rosemary). Plan to make your reservations weeks in advance, as a table on the patio at this hot spot has been extremely hard to come by!

What to Wear to Agnes: The restaurant’s open kitchen and airy patio provide a laidback atmosphere. But, you’re on date night, so you gotta look cute! Go for this flowy off-the-shoulder top paired with wide-leg jeans for a look that’s on trend with a dab of hottness! Shop this look here.

3. Cinque Terre WEST and Enoteca 5, Pacific Palisades 

I took this photo of the beautiful Burrata at Enoteca 5 during our media preview dinner

Pacific Palisades’ Lingurian restaurant Cinque Terre WEST opened right before the pandemic hit, and the restaurant’s exceptional food and warm hospitality was such a hit that it stayed open with the support of the community. Locals love the restaurant’s farmers’ market driven menu and outstanding wine list so much that the owners just opened an intimate wine bar next door called Enoteca 5. I was lucky enough to be invited to a private media preview of the new space, and I cannot wait to bring my husband back for date night! The menu changes seasonally, but standouts on the menu I tried included the cheese and charcuterie board (get the Lardo di Colonnata AKA cured pork belly – its like butter in your mouth!!), the Burrata (stone fruit, pea tendrils, sourdough toast, saba), Black Truffle Pizza (mozzarella, goat cheese, black truffle), Papparadelle alla Bolognese, and Risotto del Giorno. The sommelier will steer you toward the best Italian and Californian wine pairings for your meal. Executive Chef Gianba Vinzoni and his wife Marlo are so warm and kind, making every guest feel like family here! Simple, romantic, and authentic, this venue transports couples to a date night in Italy!

What to Wear to Cinque Terre WEST and Enoteca 5: The vibe is dressy casual. The restaurant is tucked into a strip mall, but the amazing Italian food and wine are upscale. The crowd is beachy but wealthy. Look effortless, but look stylish and smart. That’s where this House of Harlow ribbed dress comes in. The soft ribbed fabric says, I’m comfortable, but the dress quality and feminine cut says, I care… but not too much. Shop this look here.

4. Lucky’s, Malibu

A feast for the eyes! Photo credit: Blue Ladybug Studio

The popular Montecito steakhouse has landed in Malibu and provides a fabulous option for an upscale date night! Lucky’s is worth the drive up the PCH to rub elbows with the beautiful beachy “it” crowd and indulge in steakhouse specialties. My Texan heritage requires me to order steak for my entree, and Lucky’s chars them just right served with sinful sauces like cognac peppercorn cream and red wine horseradish. The chopped salad with prosciutto and shrimp is divine, the sides are top-notch (hashed browns with gruyere cheese!!), and the cocktails are strong. Start with a martini and live your best life with your bae in the ‘Bu.

What to Wear to Lucky’s Malibu: This is a classic upscale steakhouse, but you’re in Malibu, so they typical LBD won’t do. Choose a polished yet youthful dress that’s not too stuffy, like this pretty dress made with champagne chiffon fabric. This dress is formal but fun – perfect to match Lucky’s atmosphere! Shop this look here.

5. Gigi’s, Hollywood

The intimate dining room and bar at Gigi’s | Photo Credit: Shade Degges Photography

I’m a sucker for a great adults-only night out in Hollywood to make me feel young and free of diaper duty again, and Gigi’s checks all the boxes: beautiful atmosphere, excellent service, perfect people watching, Insta-worthy strong cocktails and delectable food. Gigi’s serves French bistro fare, so you still feel fancy when your husband orders the cheeseburger with caramelized onions, pickles and frites, but I’m more of a whole roasted branzino girl myself. You’ll have to plan your date night several weeks in advance, because reservations at this celebrity favored restaurant are HOT!

What to Wear to Gigi’s: This restaurant is the pre-party that you never want to end – and it might not if you can snag a spot at the bar after dinner! With Gigi’s lively atmosphere and sophisticated aesthetic, you want a dress that’s both sexy and refined. This is not an appropriate place to wear your barely-there bodycon dress from your last trip to Vegas pre-kids circa 2016 (But, if you do decide to go in that direction, we don’t blame you for trying to relive the glory days!). May I suggest this ribbed bodycon dress instead? I love its midi length with a super sexy high slit and cut out back! Yes, go for it! Shop here.

6. Merois, West Hollywood

These views!!

Merois is everything you want from a date night dinner spot in Los Angeles: outstanding Eurasian cuisine from renowned Chef Wolfgang Puck, upscale atmosphere, jaw-dropping rooftop views of Los Angeles, impeccable service and a beautiful crowd. It’s definitely a see-and-be-seen place at West Hollywood’s hottest new hotel, The Pendry, so expect to see some familiar faces. In between bites of Hamachi Tartare and Shanghai Lobster, you’ll probably say something like, “Don’t look now, but isn’t that the one guy from Stranger Things?” From my last decade spent working in the hospitality industry, these are the types of hotel restaurants that get me giddy. Everything at Merois comes together just right for an impressive and memorable dining experience with your forever dinner date.

What to Wear to Merois: Pick an outfit that’s stylish yet timeless. You may finally get discovered by some big shot agent at this restaurant, so you should look like the leading lady. Hey, you never know! I love the classic silhouette on this Majorelle dress, and the ruffles and terracotta color are on trend. Shop this look here.

The cutest yet sexiest dress from Revolve

Where should we go on date night next? Which outfit is your favorite? Give me your best LA restaurant recommendations and tell me your favorite looks in the comments below or connect with me on Instagram at @maggiehjackson! You can shop all my date night looks by clicking the image below and following me on @shop.ltk!

XO Maggie

AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE: Some of this post contains affiliate links for the products I use and LOVE. If you take action on these links (like clicking, buying, etc.), I may receive compensation at no cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own, and I’ll only recommend what I truly love.

Must-Have Items for Safe and Fun Family Beach Days!

Lifestyle, Mom & Baby, Travel

School’s out and everyone’s ready for fun in the sun! After being in lockdown last summer, I know many families are eager to visit their local beach or travel to a beach destination for vacation!

Living in Southern California, my family goes to the beach all the time. We absolutely love it. My husband surfs, I paddle board, our kiddos dig in the sand and dip their toes in the water. Needless to say, we consider ourselves professional beach goers.

My baby Lucy and me on a recent family beach day

The best part about a family beach day? All the sweet memories playing in the sand and jumping over waves with your little ones!

The worse part? All the STUFF you have to haul to the beach to have a safe, cool and fun beach day. Seriously — why do kids need SO MUCH STUFF?!?! Before kids, my husband and I showed up to the beach on our bikes with two towels and a water bottle. That was it. Man… those were the days!! Nowadays, with two kids under 3 years old, we arrive to the beach with our SUV trunk full!

Let me back up a bit… When my husband and I were kidless, we’d lay in the sand watching all these families struggle hauling all their stuff to the beach, and we swore to each other we would NOT be those people! We’d cringe as we watched dads dragging wagons full of gear back and forth across the sand from their car to their spot on the beach. Moms had their arms full of babies and shoulders weighed down with packed bags. Big kids would drag bags and toys behind them. Watching them go back and forth multiple times in the hot sun looked painful. I always thought, Can’t you just make one trip? The sight itself served as birth control for a few years. We did not want to give up our simple beach days that we loved so much!

Fast forward to today… After a few disastrous beach days with kids (and painfully going back and forth to the car to drag all our stuff to the beach), we finally got it right. We are now SMART about our beach days and have all the best portable gear to keep us cool, safe and, most importantly, have FUN!

While our beach days today aren’t as simple as our lives pre-kiddos, we still love them. And, I want you to love your beach days with your family, too!! Here are my must-have product recommendations to have a great, easy beach day with your family!

SHADE FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY!

CoolCabanas Large CoolCabana 5

First and foremost, shade is a top priority for your family beach days – especially if you have little babies like us! You need a space that is cool and comfortable so your kids can get a break from the sun. I love CoolCabanas because they’re lightweight and easy to setup – even for one person! Plus, they come in a variety of colors and patterns to fit your style. Our family has the medium size in navy stripes and the large size in lemon scarletta – both feel super chic and summery! Use my code MAGGIE10 to get 10% off your order at http://www.coolcabanas.com!

Here’s the shade mistakes we made before getting CoolCabanas:

  1. Regular beach cabana – The metal frame of a regular beach cabana is SO HEAVY!! And, it takes more than one person to set up. If it’s really windy out, just forget it!
  2. Beach umbrella – Not enough shade for the whole family, especially if you have active kiddos! My 8-month-old is exploring and crawling, and I can’t keep her under a tiny umbrella!
  3. Three-sided beach tent – If it’s really sunny out with little wind, these tents can trap the air inside and get so hot! We were trying to protect ourselves from the sun but ended up sweating nonstop in the shade of this tent!

Do yourself a favor and make family cabana setup easier by getting a CoolCabana! Check out all of CoolCabanas options at http://www.coolcabanas.com, and be sure to use my code MAGGIE10 to get 10% off your order!

STAY HYDRATED AND KEEP COOL!

YETI Hopper Backflip 24 Soft Cooler

Everyone knows YETI makes the most legit durable, high-tech equipment that can withstand all sorts of crazy outdoor adventures worthy of praise from people who live the wildest life. That being said, YETI is our go-to brand for everything we do outdoors because we know we can trust it to last a long time and, most importantly, WORK!

After a few trips to the beach with a couple soft coolers that leaked and didn’t keep our food and drinks cold enough for all day in the sun, we turned to YETI and discovered the YETI Hopper Backflip 24 Soft Cooler… It’s a backpack, y’all! GENIUS! Like, why didn’t I think of this?! Instead of lugging our former coolers on our shoulders (with all our other shoulder bags that we take to the beach), we’re now hands-free with an ergonomically designed backpack that promises superior cold-holding, a 100% leakproof zipper, a tough shell and can hold up to 20 cans of soda or beer! Get with the program and get this cooler!!

YETI Rambler and Rambler Jr. Water Bottles

Keep your water cold all day long with YETI’s amazing Rambler Water Bottles. My favorite is the 26 oz. size with chug cap for easy drinking. I love that YETI has a Rambler Jr. for kids, too! And, as a well-deserved convenience to parents, its straw cap is leak resistant when closed and both the bottle and cap are dishwasher safe. I’m so grateful for one less kid/baby item to hand wash!!

PROTECT YOUR SKIN!

Supergoop! PLAY Sunscreen + Supergoop! Sunnyscreen

The face sunscreen made popular by celebrities and influencers now has a sunscreen for the whole family! I started using Supergoop! CC Screen years ago and fell in love with the brand for its clean ingredients, non-greasy feel and effectiveness, so I was thrilled when I found out they have a sunscreen for face and body, called PLAY, that our whole family can use. The SPF 50 formula can be used on face and body, it’s water and sweat resistant for up to 80 minutes and made with reef-safe, clean, cruelty-free ingredients. It also smells amazing! It comes in a spray, a lotion and a large 18 fl. oz. pump bottle for the whole family to share.

We like to take Supergoop! PLAY Sunscreen in the spray bottle to the beach for the whole family to use!

I’m also so happy that Supergoop! has developed a sunscreen safe for little babies called Sunnyscreen. It’s 100% non-nano mineral formula checks all the boxes, meaning it’s pediatrician tested, hypoallergenic, & fragrance & silicone free. Sunnyscreen comes in a spot-on sunscreen spray, stick and lotion. I personally prefer the spray for our family, because its the simplest to use on my little 8-month-old.

KEEP KIDS SAFE IN THE WATER!

Splash About’s Go Splash Swim Vest

Our toddler was gifted this Go Splash Swim Vest for his 2nd birthday, and it has been one of the best items of our summer! It has a built-in float system that helps kids learn to swim as they’re splashing around in the pool or ocean. As a former swim instructor, I love that this swim vest encourages kids to use their arms compared to other floaties that keep arms lifted. I need to note that this is NOT a lifesaving device, and you should still always monitor your child when wearing this swim vest in and around water.

My son Landon in his Go Splash Swim Vest

One of the best things about this swim vest is that its lightweight and lays flat, so it’s packable! We brought it with us on vacation to Hawaii recently, and our toddler wore it every day! I was so thankful we packed it with us in our suitcase!

DON’T BRING THE BEACH HOME WITH YOU!

Tesalate Sand-Free Beach Towel

When you go to the beach, sand gets everywhere – especially when you have kids! Luckily, Tesalate has made the ULTIMATE beach towel! Made with AbsorbLite Microfiber, Tesalate’s beach towel is engineered for sand to slip off easily. It’s also ultra-absorbent, retaining up to a liter of water, and it dries in half the time as regular beach towels. I love that its compact and light, so easy to pack – no more bulky towels! Our family has two XL sized towels, which are great to lay next to each other for our whole family to spread out. The towels come in individual and XL size and a variety of beautiful designs. The regular size are $59 and XL are $99 and available at http://www.tesalate.com.

PROTECT EYES, EARS AND FACE WITH AFFORDABLE, PACKABLE SUN HATS FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY!

I’m embarrassed to admit that when I was younger, I often purposely left my beach hat at home simply because I didn’t have a place to pack it in my suitcase or didn’t want to have to carry it around all day. Now that I know better about the importance of protecting my skin, I refuse to step out of the house for a day in the sun without a hat. Luckily, there are so many great packable hat options out there nowadays, and tons of options can easily be found on Amazon for an affordable price!

Lucy and me rocking our packable sun hats on vacation in Hawaii!

When shopping for sun hats for your family, it’s important to find one that has a wide brim to cover your face, ears and neck. Here’s a few great packable sun hat option for the family:

For Women: FURTALK Rollup Packable Visor

I love this visor because, not only is it packable, it’s super cute! It’s especially great for really hot days when I want to wear my hair up off my neck or if I want to swim around without getting my hair wet. It’s rolls up, so it’s compact and easy to stash in your beach bag or suitcase. It comes with an adjustable velcro closure, so you don’t have to worry about purchasing the correct size!

For Men: Quicksilver Bushmaster Bucket Hat

Okay, I know bucket hats are coming back around in style, but I have to admit that its been hard for me to jump back on the trend I used to wear in the ’90s. One great thing about bucket hats, though? They’re soft, so they’re easy to pack! I like this Quicksilver option for men, because it’s wide brim will protect the back of guys’ necks – something the usual ball cap or trucker hat does not do!

For Babies: SimpliKids Wide Brim Sun Hat

Both of my babies wore this SimpliKids Wide Brim Sun Hat, which offers UPF 50+ UV ray sun protection! I love that it comes in a variety of colors to match their little swimsuits or outfits. My favorite is the white eyelet for little girls!

WIPE OFF SAND AND KEEP LITTLE HANDS CLEAN!

Yipes! Wipes

How is it that little kids always find the yuckiest things to get their hands into?! With all the digging in the sand at the beach, kiddos hands can get particularly yucky! And that sand sticks! To clean little hands, I’m really excited about this new brand of wipes called Yipes! because they were developed to help foster a culture of hygiene while making it fun and approachable with their mascot, Yolanda the Yipes! Yak. They even created a kids’ board book about hygiene featuring Yolanda! And, it’s a product that parents can feel good about while being 94% biodegradable and made with 99% plant-derived ingredients. Yipes! are available in large canisters, as well as in individual, easy-to-use pocket-sized sachets (sold in pouches of 12), which are ideal for on-the-go—perfect for lunch boxes and beach trips! Find them at http://www.YipesWipes.com.

Here are some other important tips when taking your family to the beach:

  • Go early! Don’t wait until high noon when the sun is at its strongest. Plus, the earlier you go, the the less crowded it will be, so you’ll have an easier time finding parking and a great spot in the sand. Early evening also is a nice time to go for same reasons.
  • Don’t skimp on water. We always bring more water than we think we’ll need. And, we typically end up drinking all of it!
  • Snacks, snacks, snacks! There’s something about being near water that makes kids (and grown-ups!) extra hungry! Make sure you have enough to go around!
  • Be wary of the ocean, as most waves may not be manageable for little children. Our family is very familiar with SoCal beaches, so we know what to expect with our waves. I recommend watching the ocean for its wave size and take time to understand the strength of the undertow and which direction the current is going.
  • Appropriate shoes! On hot summer days, the sand can get really hot! I recommend buying water shoes so your little ones can run around without burning their feet. Sandals and flip flops are too challenging for little kids to keep on their feet in the sand.
  • Bring some fun beach toys that encourage exploration! For my kids’ ages (an almost 3 year old and 8 month old), we stick to toys that can be used to play on the sand rather than the water. We put all the toys inside one large sand bucket to make carrying them manageable. A blow up beach ball is also a great idea, because its inflatable which makes it easy to pack.
  • Apply sunscreen BEFORE you go to the beach. Little ones get too excited once they arrive to the beach to slow down and put on sunscreen. Plus, you risk giving them an accidental exfoliating massage, because they’re likely to get sand all over them immediately!
  • Remove sticky sand with baby powder. If you don’t want to take your baby into the ocean or under the public showers to rinse off sand, sprinkling baby powder on their skin and hair removes moisture and helps sand dust off easily.

Do you have any questions or additional family beach day tips? Let me know in the comments below, or follow me on Instagram at @maggiehjackson!

XO, Maggie

AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE: Some of this post contains affiliate links for the products I use and LOVE. If you take action on these links (like clicking, buying, etc.), I may receive compensation at no cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own, and I’ll only recommend what I truly love.