First off, I cannot take credit for this experience. My husband did all the planning and I provided no input. Also, I did not know where we were going until we were actually heading there. This made the night much more exciting and I appreciated the amount of research performed beforehand. All for me. Lastly, I had never been to these locations before, so each spot was fresh and new. I like to call this type of evening a datecation ©. You are escaping for a few hours, to a variety of locations, not far from your home, but it is adventure none-the-less.
So it was our 6-year wedding anniversary. As you can guess, I normally do all the planning and coordinating. This night was my husband’s gift to me. We started with dinner at The Stinking Rose. The interior of the restaurant is designed to look like you are eating in the middle of an Italian city. Our table was located under a cabana-like structure which gave us not only more privacy, but added more romance to the experience. It is a little kitschy with the fake building facades and black lights for the painted stars on the ceiling to glow. But then again, so is a menu built around a flavored pant bulb. If you don’t already know, The Stinking Rose is noted for its extensive menu of garlic-infused eats. Hence, the “stinking”. Short ribs, prime rib, pasta, and chicken all drenched with garlic. The dinner rolls are also flavored with garlic-y goodness. If you want to try a fun very garlic appetizer, try the roasted garlic. You will get a little pan of roasted garlic – flame below – that spreads like butter on your sourdough roll. It sounds strange, but it is fantastic. I had the short ribs with garlic mash potatoes and it was very good. I was surprised at how the meat held its original juicy flavor with just a hit of garlic throughout. The menu also offers vegetarian items as well as non-garlic meals (vampire-friendly, as they like to say). We ended our meal with garlic ice cream, which sounds awful, but is surprisingly yummy.
The Stinking Rose lives up to its name and gives you garlic breathe for the rest of night. I highly recommend not choosing this restaurant for your first date. In fact, wait until you are really committed because you will smell like garlic for the next couple of days. The breathe is gone, but the flavor is now infused in YOU. After six years of marriage on top of two and a half years of dating, we felt pretty secure in our “stinking” status.
Next, we went to the Vampire Lounge on Santa Monica Blvd. This is a small wine bar with basic seating on the main level and a nice couch space on the upper level. Due to its petite size, I recommend calling in advance to see if the second floor lounge space is open. While they do not technically reserve this space, if they know a party is coming they will try to keep it open for you. Now don’t let the name fool you, this is no Goth lair. This is a sophisticated drinking experience with wines made by the Vampire label. Because we were being that cute couple in corner still giddy for each other after six years, we had their blush champagne. I enjoyed it so much, I had two glasses. But I didn’t want to leave without tasting their award-winning blood, I mean red wine (sorry – had to!). Robert, the very nice fellow who served us, gave me a free taste. Forgive me, I was having such a lovely time that I don’t recall which varietal I tried. Still, the red was full-bodied with a nice rich flavor. If you are hungry, the lounge offers fresh cheese and bread – whatever is available at the local market that day. As a souvenir, we bought one of their Vampire wine glasses. I only use it when I am drinking a bold red. Makes me feel a little dangerous. Okay, not really, but it’s fun and the label is sexy. Overall, my experience at the Vampire Lounge was really enjoyable and I am eager to go back. Not only do I love wine, but the service was great and the ambiance was classy.
Since the Vampire Lounge is not far from Rodeo, I would like a moment to chat about the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel. If you are looking for another classy bar experience, their hotel lounge off of the main lobby is quite nice. Expect the $15 martini and high-end clientele. But don’t expect a Julia Roberts Pretty Woman moment when you walk in the door. It looks nothing like the movie and rightfully so since the interior shots were taken at The Ambassador Hotel. Sadly, The Ambassador is no longer with us and its Cocoanut Grove past will remain a glitzy memory. Aaron and I went to the Reg Bev Wil a while back and while and while it’s lovely, I felt very disappointed. I grew up wanting to be whatever Julia Roberts was in that movie – I originally saw it sans sex (I was nine!). After seeing the whole movie later, I had to rethink my career path. Regardless, it is another cool Beverly Hills spot to check out. Just keep your movie hotels straight to avoid cocktail sadness.
After the Vampire Lounge, we drove up to Sunset Boulevard. To get there, we had to cut through a portion of the residential area which provided great views of impressive homes. Some of which would be classified as mansions. This is a nice touch if you are showing around out-of-towners. I have lived in LA all my life and I still get a little giddy. Our last stop was the Beverly Hills Hotel. Their lounge is not far from the lobby and is called Bar Nineteen 12. Named after the year the hotel was built, Nineteen Twelve is posh. It was a bit chilly out – February mist – so we sat inside, but I recommend the outdoor seating. The hotel sits higher than the boulevard which affords sweeping views of Palm trees, mansion-tops, glittering city lights, and expensive cars below. THIS is what people think the Hollywood/LA life is like. The hotel does provide heaters and some of the tables have built-in candles, ups the warmth and ambiance respectively. Our lounge server was quite bubbly and attentive. She brought us fresh olives and truffle popcorn upon which to munch. The popcorn is cooked in truffle oil and then sprinkled with truffle butter. Like the garlic ice cream, this did not sound appealing at first. And yet again, I was pleasantly surprised. So now we smell like garlic and mushrooms. We are a sexy pair. For my final adult beverage of the night, I had the espresso martini. This turned out to be the perfect evening topper. It is fresh espresso mixed with sweet liquor. An after dinner coffee with built-in dessert. On Friday and Saturday nights, Nineteen Twelve has a DJ which brings in the crowds. Expect to make reservations for seating and pay a pretty penny for drinks. There are gourmet small bites on the menu as well, so no need to go hungry.
I am very grateful for this datecation ©, courtesy of my sweet husband. We opted to not exchange gifts this year and instead enjoy a mini edible adventure together. We had a great meal, great drinks, and fantastic views. You can’t beat high end ambiance with the person you love. To me, it was the perfect Beverly Hills romance.