Ado: The Complex Nature of Simplicity in this Westside Italian Restuarant

It was somewhere in the middle of our dinner at Ado where we were related the story of co-owner Paulo Cesaro. Somehow, the man ended up in Milwaukee missing a few teeth after beginning the night over some cocktails in New York. I’d just watched this man move a chair across the room for a diner who needed it. I’d seen him crack open a bottle of red wine, and I’d seen him smiling with the waiters as they all spoke Italian. But it was after learning this particular fact that the night, and in fact the entire place made sense. They may look simple, but beneath the wooden floors and the white sparkly teeth, there are many complexities.

They’ve only been open less than a year, but Paulo Cesaro and partner/chef Antonio Mure have found a depth to the menu and to the space that you wouldn’t otherwise expect.

“It’s a simple menu,” said Mure. “Why do I need five salads? What am I, a cow?”

The kitchen is downstairs in this two-story location. It seats 35, and the creaking of the wooden steps and the smells wafting from below remind me of my grandparents’ Italian house. Well, Michigan actually, but the cuisine is Italian.

I’m so impressed with this place that I was back again within a week.

It seems their signature dish is the Tagliolini, which is just what pulled me back across town. 

”Tagliolini Rossi con Ragu di Quaglia in Fonduta di Taleggio, which is home-made fresh red beet tagliolini pasta in a marsala quail ragu served on a bed of taleggio cheese,” said Cesaro,

Fondue is a strong aphrodisiac, so if you choose our Tagliolini over sex you’ll probably end up with both.

If I had heard those words without having this dish, I’d never have believed them. Quail and beets would never be on my tongue if you asked me for sensual tastes, but here they are. Valentine’s Day is ahead, but I wouldn’t wait that long if I were you.

Here at Ado, they do enjoy a celebrity clientele (not to be confused with the other celeb-heavy Italian eatery, Ago, Agostino Sciandri’s namesake restaurant). But it’s very low-key, and in fact Cesaro has no idea who any of them are. He’ll move tables and find ways to slip people in, whether they’re ordinary residents or A-list talent. Both he and Mure are friendly and inviting, and the dining area and the food are too.

Other favorites include the Carpaccio di Manzo con Rucola e Scaglie di Grana, which is a fantastic beef carpaccio topped with shaved parmesan cheese and arugula in a mustard Dressing. Even though you know there’s an entree on the way, you’ll be trying to finish every last bite of cheese and meat on this wooden platter. A masterfully cooked quail leg and breast served on a bed of porcini mushrooms also graces the menu, as does a pan sauteed beef filet mignon served with a truffle butter sauce (Filetto di Bue al Barolo tartufato, if you’d like to impress your date).

It’s a one-page menu, and a simple wooden restaurant that you could easily drive past (much easier to spot are the Dogtown Station lofts next door). But beneath the yellow paint, there’s a history to this building that stretches back to 1908. There’s also complexity to your hosts, and to the food they serve.

Follow our lead to that Tagliolini, and you’ll find lust, envy and gluttony in this Westside gem.

Girly Gossip, Cocktails, and Racy Readings from “Sex, Life & Hannah”

Saturday morning and menacing grey clouds, pregnant with rain, hang over Los Angeles. It definitely creates a worrisome atmosphere, but that all dissipates as the clouds drift away and a bright blue sky emerges.

It’s turned into a great day for a pool party.

It’s also a great day to lounge, engage in a little girl talk, sip cocktails, and listen to Dorota Skrzypek, author of “Sex, Life & Hannah” read juicy excerpts from her books.  In an intimate setting, we gathered around the Standard West Hollywood’s shimmery poolside and hung on Dorota’s every word as she wove titillating tales of sex shop sprees, double penetration shenanigans, and many other sexy adventures.

Dorota is enjoying an extended celebration of her birthday.  As she reads, the group marvels at her incredibly cute outfit: a loose-fitting army green cropped shirt that compliments her skin tone paired with unique, trendy shorts courtesy of Taylrz Joynt Boutique in Sherman Oaks.  Dorota reads excerpts with poise, flow and confidence.  It’s almost as if she’s reading from her own journal.

“Sex, Life & Hannah” chronicles the life of Hannah as she gets over her douchebag of an ex-boyfriend.  These scandalous, spicy little stories are much more personable, brilliant and compelling compared to anything you have ever seen on “Sex in the City.” Look into the mind of a single woman who hits up L.A. nightlife.  Glimpse into her mind as risqué discussions with her friend Jack blossom into mile-high airplane escapades.  Laugh your ass off as you read about the saintly musings of Hannah’s virginal friend Celeste.

Who really goes on all these adventures?  Is Hannah truly a fictional character?  Did the author go on these escapades, or were they hearsay?

When I asked Dorota about this, she admitted, “I am Hannah. That’s right, I have had all that sex with all those men, and my BFF really is a sexual strategist that sleeps with…whatever he fancies. There are many elements of fiction in the book series of course; I did not set out to write a memoir. But I always have, and continue to use my journal entries for inspiration.”

You know what they say: you write about what you know, and Dorota has a lot of insight on the dating and relationship jungle of Los Angeles.  However, she notes that dates are easy to find, while relationships are not.

“I don’t think it’s difficult to date in LA. There are so many events, parties, and places to hang out at every night of the week; meeting someone, getting a number, going on a date, getting laid–pretty easy. I think the difficulty lies in finding someone that will commit to having a relationship with you. This town is full of hustlers trying to make their dreams come true. Whether it’s being the next hot designer, producer, athlete, real estate developer, writer, it’s a very self-indulgent city, so finding a mate becomes secondary, and getting distracted is really easy.”

But Dorota isn’t a self-indulgent person: not only has she welcomed us to celebrate her birthday during this book reading, she’s also raising money for the Busted Foundation.

“I want people to know that when they buy a Sex, Life, & Hannah book, or membership, or product they’re supporting something bigger than just my personal dream. Bowling for Boobies® is Busted Foundation’s annual charity bowling tournament. Busted Foundation provides monetary assistance to women fighting and living with breast cancer. $2 from every Sex, Life, & Hannah purchase supports Busted Foundation,” she explains.

“Much like Hannah, we’re saving the world two boobs at a time,” says Stefanie LaHart of the Busted Foundation.  “Bowling for Boobies raises money for women so they can pay their bills.”

The organization is an annual fundraiser that provides financial assistance for local women who are facing financial challenges as a result of living with breast cancer. Ready to throw on your bowling shoes and strike it big?  You don’t necessarily have to be the world’s best bowler to participate.  Have fun, raise money and bowl on Sunday, October 24th from 5pm-10pm at Jillian’s on Universal CityWalk.
Be on the lookout for the third in the “Sex, Life & Hannah” series.  Dorota was kind enough to give us some upcoming dirt.

“Celeste kisses a boy, Ireland has a threesome, Holly gets arrested, Jack falls in love, and Hannah gets engaged,” Dorota explains.

The all-girls gala carries on into the sweltering late-summer afternoon.  I’m thankful for this as I provide sex toy recommendations and engage in girly gossip about shopping, working out, and husbands and boyfriends and the whole credit card rite of passage.

It was good to get in a little girl time, but you can easily escape into Hannah’s escapades yourself for only $8.99.  A membership to Hannah’s book club lets you read all the books on your laptop or mobile, and since it’s a one-time fee, it’s a hell of a deal.

Whether you’re poolside with your favorite cocktail or need a devilish distraction from work, you can follow Hannah’s luscious nightlife adventures as well as her fully relatable heartbreaks.

A Good Vibrations Guide to Sinful Stocking Stuffers

Have you started your Christmas shopping yet?  No?  Naughty, naughty!  It’s time to start thinking about some sinful stocking stuffers for your lover or your favorite couple.

When I lived in the Bay area, one of my favorite stomping grounds was the Mission District.  Colorful and expressive murals left and right, made-to-order burritos, interesting architecture, and an array of shopping options made the BART voyage from the East Bay to the City very well worth it.  The icing on the cake was a quaint, sex-positive storefront that’s been around since 1977.

Unlike some of the other shady sex store haunts out there, Good Vibrations on Valencia was a bright beacon brimming with sex-positive vibes where I could make purchases without feeling like I’d just completed a drug transaction.  In fact, according to Camilla Lombard, Events and Publicity Manager of Good Vibrations, the company prides itself on being a safe, comfortable place for women to buy an array of products.

“Just to give you some back story, we are the premier retailer trusted for over three decades to provide high quality products, education, and information that promotes sexual health, pleasure, and empowerment through our retail and web channels. We’re very proud to have invented the concept of the ‘clean well-lit place for women to buy a vibrator’ and now we provide a safe and welcoming environment where women and men alike can shop for sex toys, books, movies, and attend educational workshops.”

Good Vibrations was one of the many familiar places in San Francisco that I genuinely missed when I left.  Chock full of fun toys and even educational materials, it was always a delight to browse.  The store also regularly holds sex education events to uphold the founder’s tradition.

“The company was started by a marriage therapist who treated pre-orgasmic women and there was lots of ‘consciousness raising’ in the early days with vibrator demo workshops including the venerable Cadillac of all vibes, the Hitachi Magic Wand and later the Rabbit Pearl,” explains Camilla.

Folks in Los Angeles do not have to trek all the way up the coast to enjoy the tantalizing treasures offered by Good Vibrations.  Just log on to http://www.goodvibes.com and browse the sexy selections and shop from the comfort of your own home.  Now that Christmas time is right around the corner, I have a few provocative present suggestions for your lover or for your favorite kinky couple.

Make it a Movie Night

Since the chilly rainy season is right around the corner, that means more time indoors.  However, that doesn’t mean you have to settle down with the same old boring movie.  Why not learn a little while you’re cuddled up with your honey on the couch?

Good Vibes has the perfect movie night solution for you.  Dr. Carol Queen, Good Vibrations Staff Sexologist and Co-Founder of the Center for Sex and Culture, doesn’t just tell you how to do it, she has her fetching friends show you!  The Pleasure-Ed series is ongoing and features two videos, “Going Down: The Official Guide to Cunnilingus” and “Head’s Up: The Official Guide to Fellatio.”

In “Going Down,” you’ll learn about how to give her superb pleasure and intense orgasms.  Improve your technique, learn more about her anatomy and discover secrets to arousal:

http://www.goodvibes.com/display_product.jhtml?id=8-7-MP-1001

“Head’s Up” is all about the guy in your life.  Learn about his bits, explore what gets him hot and discover some new blowjob techniques:

http://www.goodvibes.com/display_product.jhtml?id=8-7-MP-1003

Let the Pleasure-Ed Series take you into a sexy realm of information and instructional content that will surely enhance your sex lives.  With Dr. Carol Queen as your guide, follow professional performers and real-life couples as they show you how to go down in style.  Each guide is approximately 60 minutes and is overflowing with coupled chemistry and valuable information and is the perfect gift for newlyweds and amorous adventurers.

Good Vibes is truly unique in that they aim to provide accurate and current information.  “We are the only adult retailer to house an education department and our resident staff sexologists, Dr. Carol Queen and Dr. Charlie Glickman, have been quoted and featured on HBO, CNN, MSNBC, Salon.com, Nerve.com, Dateline, Redbook, Men’s Fitness, Self, O Magazine, Essence, and more,” says Camilla.

Randy Reads

Would you rather curl up with a good book?  Is your favorite couple the literary type?  Then combining “The New Bottoming Book” with “The New Topping Book” will be the perfect additions to that libidinous library.  In the Top to Bottom Kit, the edgy pair in your life will learn all about the fine art of BDSM:

http://www.goodvibes.com/display_product.jhtml?id=6-9-XX-0607

Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy give you the low-down on the fascinating realm of BDSM.  These updated editions cover everything from basic gear to deep emotions and safety protocol.  Since the previous editions, BDSM has evolved dramatically (largely due to the Internet), so Easton and Hardy take you through ethics, toys, terms, skills and scenes.

Each book is roughly 200 pages, enjoyable to read, and overflowing with valuable BDSM information from two perspectives: a dominant and a submissive.  Both books are beneficial to the ever-growing carnal collection.

Romantic Rubdowns and Erotic Edibles

Good Vibes’ line of luxury bath and body products is perfect for those of you who like to indulge.  Try the Touch Me line of sensuous massage oils or the Rub Me massage bars for a naughty night in.  Top it off with the Ignite Me candles, and you’ll have an erotic evening to remember.

Looking to sample an assortment these sexy little treats?  Then you’ll love the Sensual Sampler Kit. With Knead Me massage lotion, Devour Me lickable oil, Touch Me massage oil, Lust Dust edible body powder, two mini Rub Me massage bars, Ignite Me massage candle, and Smooch Me lip lube, the Sensual Sampler Kit will leave you ready to give and receive many a night’s worth of provocative pleasure.  These kits are perfect presents for a long weekend away, a night in or as a party favor for the new bride:

http://www.goodvibes.com/display_product.jhtml?id=1-9-XX-1016#fulldescription

Pucker up and give your kisser a tasty treat with the Smooch Me Lip Lube.  This long-lasting, all-natural vegan formula is perfect for soothing and softening those lush lips of yours.  I recommend the Cherry Vanilla; the sweet scent of cherry and the soothing aroma of vanilla combined results in the perfect come-hither formula.  Also available in Cinnamon Spice, Mojito and Pomegranate Mint:

http://www.goodvibes.com/display_product.jhtml?id=33GH67#fulldescription

The Rub Me bars are especially exciting.  Simply massage this natural, alluring bar into your lover’s warm skin, and the bar will melt into a rich, creamy butter.  The bars are made from pure cocoa butter, Shea butter and essential oils and are a perfect solution if you’re not too keen on messy massage oils.  Each bar is good for about 10-12 massages.  The After Dinner Mint is especially invigorating, while the English Lavender is calming and comforting.  The Rub Me bars also come in French Vanilla, Morning Dew, Pomegranate Mint, Amber Rose and Coconut Lime:

http://www.goodvibes.com/display_product.jhtml?id=31GA03

Good Vibes also features a luscious line of massage oils and lotions with nourishing herbal extracts.  The Touch Me Massage Oils and Lotions will moisturize and soften your skin.  Use it after a relaxing bubble bath, a steamy shower, or as a sensuous massage oil.  It can also be used anytime your skin yearns for a lightweight, lush treat.

The Morning Dew Massage Oil, with its refreshing and crisp aroma, is highly recommended.  Choose from English Lavender, French Vanilla, Pomegranate Mint or Nude:

http://www.goodvibes.com/display_product.jhtml?id=31GA01

The Knead Me Massage Lotion in French Vanilla’s scent is warm and inviting, but you can also choose from Morning Dew, English Lavender and Pomegranate Mint:

http://www.goodvibes.com/display_product.jhtml?id=31GA02

Piquant pomegranate and sweet mint in a swirl of refreshing scent make up one of many Ignite Me Massage Candle varieties.  Burn the candle, blow out the flame and drizzle the melted soy wax on your lover for a kinky, sensual massage.  Because the soy melts at a much lower temperature, you can kiss burns bye-bye.  Also available in Nude, Morning Dew, English Lavender and Nude:

http://www.goodvibes.com/display_product.jhtml?id=31GA06

Looking for some erotic edibles to drizzle and dust all over your partner’s body?  Then you’ll love the Devour Me line.  Coat your baby’s body in this natural, non-sticky sweetness.  Free of colors and artificial sweeteners, this non-staining, sweet almond-based formula will have you licking and nibbling all over your lover’s body.  The Strawberry Kiss is light and sweet, while the Crème Brulee is rich and warm.  Also available in Piña Colada:

http://www.goodvibes.com/display_product.jhtml?id=33GH03

Lust Dust Edible Body Powder is a fancy fairy dust made of cornstarch, sucrose, and flavoring.  This translucent, lickable powder is ideal paired with an ostrich feather for some teasing, then some lustful lapping later on.  Lust Dust comes in two tasty varieties.  Choose from Honey Vanilla or Chocolate Strawberry:

http://www.goodvibes.com/display_product.jhtml?id=33GH11

Luscious Lubes

There’s one thing more annoying than creaky beds, weird sounds or even Eighties glam hair when you’re having sex, and that’s bad lube.  If you’re sick of bizarre lubes that taste too much like a sickly sweet dessert, Sliquid Organics Natural Lubricant is the perfect solution for you.

Have you ever picked up a bottle of lube only to be completely perplexed by the ingredients list?  You’ll love Sliquid; it boasts an ingredients list with familiar terms: water, plant cellulose, Vitamin E and aloe.  This glycerin-free lube is perfect for sensitive ladies and is the supreme lube solution for solo fun, foreplay, vaginal and anal play.  It’s latex, rubber, plastic and vegan friendly and is the perfect all-around lube:

http://www.goodvibes.com/display_product.jhtml?id=22FL22

Make this upcoming holiday season sexier with some great gifts especially for grown-ups.  Whether you’ve been naughty or nice, we’re sure you’ll enjoy these sinful little surprises from Good Vibrations.

Making Your Own Adult Video With Lupe Fuentes and Evan Seinfeld (And the CamCaddie)

Only a few years ago, the costs of filming something in high definition were astronomical. Incredibly large cameras and sophisticated operation meant that only the most professional users were involved, and the rest of us were left waiting for the inevitable flow towards something both accessible and affordable.

These days, most everyone has a high-definition set, and with the advent of Flip HD cameras and HDSLRs, a lot more people have access to quality gear. And of course, as the saying goes, it isn’t really technology until you can put porn on it, so we wondered what it would take to make a high-quality adult film in your own home.

We enlisted the help of our friends Evan Seinfeld and Lupe Fuentes, two big names in the adult world. They were kind enough to invite us over to their beautiful house in Porn Valley, and along with our CamCaddie stabilizer, we wanted to take our bedroom videography skills to the next level.

“The idea for the CamCaddie came from making skate and snowboard videos,” said Daniel McElderry, who invented the product. “Most skateboard videographers film with cameras that have built in top handles because they need to get very low and stabilize their camera while following a subject.  I saw the need for this type of accessory in the marketplace because of the direction that modern consumer based cameras were headed.”

From skateboard videos to walkthroughs of real-estate, the product has many applications. But were we the first to show it to an adult film star regarding home sex tapes?

“We actually had a booth at AdultCon about 6 months ago, we showed it to a bunch of the adult stars but it was not really the right atmosphere.  They were busy doing signings and such.  We did sell it to many of the visitors though.”

If you haven’t heard of Lupe Fuentes yet, you will soon. She’s currently the number one selling Fleshlight girl, and all of her 4’9” frame oozes sexuality. You can see why Seinfeld is so in love with her, and they have a chemistry that translates very easily to film.

As you set out to make your adult video debut (even if it’s just for you and your partner), you want to make sure you have the right equipment.

“With a digital SLR Camera you really can use either type of lens, but I would recommend wide-angle primes in general,” said McElderry. “The wider the lens, the smoother your footage will come out.”

“Many of the new Digital SLRs have auto focus as well so for those times when you don’t want to focus you can rely on this feature,” he said. “There are also follow focus systems available and we have one in development as well. These are geared mechanisms that attach to the camera and lens.  Although these are fairly high-end systems and rather pricey.”

“The CamCaddie also works very well with traditional video cameras that will have auto-focus.  With these cameras you can also use wide-angle lenses to get in closer on the action.”

“For close up situation like filming an adult scene the trick to good camera movements is to not use a zoom.  You want to move the camera to and around your subject.  Zooming in squishes the subject and picture which detracts from your image.”

Seinfeld gave us many important elements, such as a good location, a hot girl, and the right camera equipment. “You also need to have chemistry with your partner,” he said, “because you can’t manufacture that. You have to make sure that you have the fire.”

“You really need to have great looks and great shots. We like to use different areas of the house, and areas that are well-lit. And you need a good camera. We’re using a Cam Caddie on a Canon 5D,” said Seinfeld.

It’s easy to work and it’s not obtrusive. It doesn’t get in the way and make you feel like you’re under a microscope.

There are some other sinful uses for the product as well, aside from naughty home videos.

“It is the perfect accessory for students and independent filmmakers, with new digital SLR cameras you can sneak around all over the city and get shots in and around the city without pulling permits,” said McElderry. “The CamCaddie is the perfect accessory as it is small, compact and acts as a stabilizer, and you can quickly attach and detach microphones, lights or any other accessory within seconds.  For example, if you need a quick five-second shot of a subject walking down aisle of a market…”

If you look at the scorpion-shaped device, you’d never know it was a camera stabilizer. But as you become familiar with the design and the specifics of filming with it, you’re hooked. Much like Lupe herself, this thing is built to perform.

“We use a custom-formulated compound which is specifically manufactured for CamCaddie.  This material allows you to float the camera on the tips of your fingers without having to worry about it suddenly slipping off.  The construction of the product is essential to how it works and to the techniques that you can apply while filming,” said McElderry.

Though our stars initially were wondering about the strange device that had found its way on to our camera, all doubts were soon erased when they saw what it was capable of. Seinfeld even wanted one for himself.

“Maybe it will end up as a standard on all porn sets from now on,” said McElderry.

They are even about to start offering them in different colors, starting with pink which is already made and about to hit the shelves.

“I can honestly say everyone that uses the CamCaddie falls in love with it,” said McElderry.

It adds a tremendous amount of versatility to any camera and improves the quality of your image for an affordable price.  I think the biggest testament is that in 2 years we have never had one returned.

Follow along with the tips we’ve provided in the video below, and you too can be making quality adult videos at home. Whether you go on to become the next Evan Seinfeld and Lupe Fuentes is up to you, but at least you’ll have some great footage to play with.

Surf: ilovelupe.com
Surf: rockstarpornstar.com
Surf: camcaddie.com

Sinning in LA Takes You to Tokyo in Torrance at the Miayko Hybrid Hotel

“It’s hard to tell the difference between sea and sky, between voyager and sea. Between reality and the workings of the heart.” 
— Haruki Murakami

Here’s what I know about Japan: karaoke, cherry blossoms, sumo wrestling, anime, tea ceremonies, bullet trains, and amazing automobiles.

Oh, and business cards. Lots and lots of business cards.

There’s a lot of attention to detail and courtesy, and as Lost in Translation will teach you, ample opportunity for jet lag and culture shock to turn your reality on end. Silent wandering through brilliant gardens and bustling intersections which trigger visions of Times Square and Vegas, only with more vibrancy.

Fortunately, the time-consuming and expensive journey can happen on any Friday night as you point your car in the direction of Torrance, where the certified green Miyako Hybrid Hotel will put your mind in Tokyo, if not exactly your body. And luckily, they’re located in the same time zone.

We sat down with Cherie Davis, the General Manager, who gave us all the details.

“Although we are in the opening months many people have discovered the hotel for leisure. The name is maybe a little bit intimidating for the less experienced traveler, but when we say hybrid it really has three meanings. Hybrid means first and foremost that we are using alternative sources of energy. We have a hundred solar panels on the roof, tankless water heaters, controlled ventilation, and there are floor-to-ceiling windows in every room that reduce stress and enhance the mood. There is water purification system underneath the building, and even the Aveda shampoos and conditioners that are in your hotel room are not plastic bottles.”

Far away from both Los Angeles and Tokyo, you’ll find the Playa of Burning Man. And one of the important elements that resonates with the people there is eco-consciousness. It sometimes gets lost in the shuffle of daily life, racing down the freeway at terrifying speeds just to finish the day’s assignments. But this planet is what we’ve got, and with our state’s current budget crisis, we need to save every last bit of everything we can.

“The second meeting of hybrid is East meets West,” continued Davis. “You can have breakfast, lunch and dinner with Eastern as well as Western items. In your room there is a coffee machine and a tea-maker. You can get USA Today or a Japanese paper. There are deluxe bathrooms with both Western and the more Japanese items like rain shower heads and deep soaking bathtubs.”

And this is where the escape begins. Soak in an oversized tub after your shower, drink tea in your robe as you slip inside your incredible Four Diamond bedding, and experience an otherworldly treatment at Spa Relaken, and you’ll find yourself feeling far from life beyond the hotel doors.

“The spa has only been open six to eight weeks. It is the first US launch of a ganban-yoku spa so we wanted to make sure it was really authentic even in the tiniest detail. We even had to fly in staff.”

Spas and bathing are very important in the Japanese culture. This might be why they live so long.

Ganban-yoku is a process involving warmed stones and a heated room. You go in for a few minutes and then step out. See how long you can stand it, and feel the cleansing sweat leave your body. It becomes transcendental after a while, a relaxing assault on your internal heating and cooling mechanisms. You’ll be changed, for sure.

Beyond that, a wide array of unique therapies, including an aromatherapy massage. Choose from the scents which take your synapses to new places. I found myself drifting in and out of consciousness while taking in pine and lavender smells.

“And lastly,” said Davis, “hybrid means business hotel meets boutique hotel. When you come in you feel like you are away from everything else. It is another world. It is very silent. We are very cognizant of noise pollution so make sure the rooms are very quiet, the restaurant is more upbeat and the spa is very subdued.”

The restaurant itself, Gonpachi, is one of my favorites in all of Los Angeles. It has locations across Japan, and was the basis for a memorable scene in Kill Bill. This particular version doesn’t feature any fighting, but it does have some incredible knife work. From sea urchin that melts in your mouth to salmon that is topped off with a blowtorch, you’re sure to find a new experience here. The restaurant also provides all of the room service, so they provided us with a pot of tea to take back up to the room for the night.

We have green tea everywhere – tea, cookies, and even inside cards in our gift shop.


“Once you walk inside the hotel you are in Japan, but it is Westernized. You can have sushi or a Kobe burger. You can have noodles or sirloin steak. The restaurant gets a lot of locals. And we have salad and soup bars which are Eastern and Western,” said Davis.

The hotel is surrounded by Japanese car manufacturers, including Toyota and Honda, which brings a lot of corporate business to the hotel.

However, it’s also an easy escape from the city for a quick getaway. With the beach only a handful of miles and the fifth-largest shopping center in the country nearby, along with a large Asian market (to pick up some authentic Japanese tea, of course), there’s plenty of draw for locals and tourists both.

The service is impeccable, with an attention to detail that is signature to a boutique hotel. Names and preferences are remembered, and the staff will go out of their way to make sure that you’re overly satisfied.

“I think you can see the high level of service and the gentle nature that is typical of Japan in our staff. We also speak seventeen languages here. We want everyone to feel welcome,” said Davis.

Though the only sumo wrestling you’ll find here is on one of the many Japanese stations on your television, you’re sure to escape California for the East if you find yourself at the Miyako Hybrid Hotel.

Reality shifts away quickly here, so be ready for the adventure.

The All-Seeing Eye: Rob Myers Puts Down His Sitar And Picks Up A Camera To Document His Touring Time With Thievery Corporation In New Book

Normally when you go to experience a concert, you usually have to burn it into your brain because you’ll never see it (or remember it) quite the same way again, unless the band decides to document it properly for you. Not content with being one of the busiest men in the music business, Rob Myers, from modern funk outfit The Fort Knox Five, is also an avid photographer and he recently released his first book that chronicles his time spent playing sitar for the legendary live act Thievery Corporation during their 2006 tour.

“I put the book together because you have thousands and thousands of photos from a tour, and though it seems to have many of them, it’s really only 700,” he shared with me. “So there’s all this editing that goes down and so much of it was about finding the right tempo. Sometimes it was crazy because the bad photos could be more important than the good ones.”

I take pictures all the time. I can’t go without a camera. I just can’t do it. I’ve even lost cameras on tour before. I even had a DVX 100 video camera stolen in 2005 with tons of tapes and my digital camera at the time with tons of memory cards.

He then added, “I’m actually making a little documentary about the 2005 experience.”

While many photo books of bands seem to primarily feature the performers rocking the main stages or working the crowd, Myers’ selections are some of the most intimate and candid we’ve ever come across. Each show from the tour has been chronologically curated to perfection, so you can really go along for the ride without the need of your passport.

“It’s about storytelling,” he explained. “You can see it when a filmmaker is making a movie. Even if it’s a bad take, they’re going to have to put it in if it moves the plot forward. It has nothing to do with how well it was shot because if you have two great shots that are similar, you can only use one. So if you have one mediocre shot, you have to put it in to help tell the story.”

The images captured were from a tour that spanned Seattle to São Paulo before finally culminating with a triumphant homecoming gig back in the band’s native city of Washington, D.C. Despite the fact that the tour was nearly four years ago, each photo feels fresher than ever and has earned ample love from from Rob Garza and Eric Hilton from Thievery Corporation.

“They love it,” he laughed. “It’s our yearbook. I bring it with me and whenever we’re at some bar in Belgrade or wherever, we’ll bring it out.”

I love the idea that even though it’s so old at this point for me, it’s one of those projects that has a little bit of legs.

Much like Thievery Corporation and their label, ESL Recordings, Myers and his Fort Knox Recordings family are equally potent with their penchant for putting out high-quality projects. After the release of last year’s The New Gold Standard Vol. II, they’re ready to return with Myers’ main live project, the progressive reggae outfit See-I, along with a brand new Thunderball album.

It was a particular bit of Thievery Corporation scoop that turned out to be most exciting. The band will finally be releasing their first live DVD later this year.

“We did five nights at the 9:30 club ending the last tour and we brought in some friends from Australia to shoot it in HD,” he shared. “We even wore the same clothing for each of the five nights to keep the continuity.”

The special live documentation is set to coincide with the band’s first-ever Greatest Hits album, which was something that Myers was particularly excited about.

“They’ll be some remixes and it’s gonna have a special packaging. We’re even gonna do a photobook with it, so there will be a bunch of my stuff in there too.”

If you have your own label, you always have to be putting stuff out. Whether it’s music or images or interviews, it’s just part of the business. So the more you can control internally, the more you’re independent.

While he may be busier than ever, the quality of his work has never been better. It’s astounding to me that no matter if he’s rocking it live with The Fort Knox Five in Joshua Tree, rolling with Thievery Corporation, or releasing a photography book, you’re always guaranteed something special. With books already planned for the 2007 and 2008 Thievery tours, it’s fantastic that fans can now have a way to keep the live memories from their respective shows closer. Whether you’re a longtime fan or if you’ve never had the privilege of seeing Thievery Corporation live before than this book will help you feel as though you’re right there on the road with them.

Buy: Thievery Corporation Tour Book

Follow: twitter.com/FORTKNOXFIVE

Surf: Fort Knox Recordings

Avalon Comes Alive As The Crystal Method Bring Their Live Show Back To LA

Whether you’d consider yourself a fan of the genre or not, you’ve definitely heard songs by The Crystal Method. The duo of Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland have enjoyed tremendous commercial success across all kinds of media, and now their world tour has landed right here in our backyard. Their ever-evolving sound has come together on their latest album, Divided By Night, and we met up with them before their show at the Avalon to talk about what this particular night meant to the guys.

“We’ve had great LA performances,” added Jordan, “but they were festivals like Coachella and Electric Daisy Carnival, so it wasn’t like we got to have our own show. We really wanted to do something like this before we wrapped up the touring on the album, so we’ve been looking forward to this show for a long time.”

Los Angeles is where The Crystal Method was born.

“This is where we got in to techno and raves. We moved here from Las Vegas in 1989, so we have sort of an LA-grown sound,” said Kirkland.

The last time we saw The Crystal Method at Avalon, they played with Adam Freeland and Hybrid on a night which was just as much of a rock concert as a DJ set. With the right songs and able hands at the controls, a room can fill up with so much energy that it can push at the walls and rattle the speakers.

“We’ve always wanted to bring that energy from the live concerts that we loved going to,” said Kirkland. “We love that interaction with the fans and the crowd, so people can see us actually doing something up there.”

We have always approached our live shows as more of a rock concert.

“The live show is all our music and it’s nice because you don’t have to wonder whether a particular song is ours or not, because they’re all ours!” added Jordan.

“Pretty much every track that was in the set has been overhauled,” Kirkland explained. “They’ve been deconstructed and then built back up because we don’t do mash-ups of our tunes, but there are blends which get things to flow really well. We really wanted to keep the integrity of the originals intact but we also wanted to update them too, so I think we’ve managed to walk that fine line.”

“And tonight we’re gonna change things up a little bit by bringing in Meiko,” he added. “We’ve only performed one time with her before and that was for our KCRW performance, but it went so well and she just happened to be around, so we rehearsed it a couple of days ago and we’re excited to showcase it tonight.”

She delivered a stirring rendition of the downtempo track “Falling Hard,” which she recorded with the guys to close out Divided By Night. The live version, with Meiko on acoustic guitar, helped showcase to this sold-out crowd the true depth and scope of a band that has been at the top of the electronic music world for nearly fifteen years.

In addition to Meiko, Divided by Night brought together collaborators like Matisyahu, Emily Haines (Metric), and long-time musical hero Peter Hook (New Order).

“When you get a chance to work with people that you really admire and they contribute to the project like it’s one of their own, it’s pretty special,” said Kirkland.

He added, “The rock influences came out on Tweekend and some of the darker, techno influences on Legion Of Boom but this one is a continuation of us evolving and giving a different take on where we’re coming from by infusing these different artists into our sound.”

To become the proper band they are today, The Crystal Method have played on incredibly diverse bills, such as as the nu-metal flavors found at Korn’s Family Values Tour. They’ve also played hundreds of shows all over the planet, a flickering reminder of which sat in the middle of the stage in the form of a glowing orb. So when the curtains came up on the Avalon, the boys looked as comfortable as ever rocking out with their custom-designed keyboards that were more akin to something you might find in Star Wars. The light show and accompanying visuals that accompany the tour are truly otherworldly.

“Our lighting director is here and he’s been with us forever,” Kirkland said. “We’ve built a relationship with High End Systems, which is this amazing lighting company, who have led the entire industry for many years in innovation and it’s great when you get someone who knows the songs and the sound so well that they’ve taken the time to craft a visual show that matches the audio.”

But if you’re prone to seizures, bring a pillow or a helmet because you’re going to need it!

While the stage setup has certainly evolved over the years, hearing classic Crystal Method tracks like “Busy Child” and “Keep Hope Alive” cut through the Avalon left my ears ringing and my synapses burning. New memories were created here, forever linked to those classics and each pulsing minute on the dance floor.

“We’ve always made an effort to not repeat ourselves but to challenge ourselves. It would have really been easy for us to go into the studio and slap together a “Vegas II”  and continue on with that vibe with the big fills and breakdowns, but that was for that time period. When we started to evolve by doing different events, such as the Family Values Tour and performing our music in all these different environments for people who would not normally hear our sound, it was great for us because we’re not going to pigeonhole ourselves as a band that can only play at raves or nightclubs.”

This being an LA show, the night wouldn’t have been complete without a little extra push, and the boys did not disappoint their fans and many friends in attendance.

“There’s definitely a little bit of showmanship,” Kirkland laughed. “That’s a big element from the bands that have come out of here that are much bigger than us. Everybody always brings a big show element here because in LA, you gotta do something to make yourself standout. There’s like twenty million people here and almost as many bands, so you’ve gotta do something.”

That something caught everyone by surprise, when Jordan took to the stage just before their encore and proposed to his girlfriend, Janine. As the crowd cheered on (and she said yes), it closed out their near ninety-minute show with a little extra euphoria.

Looking back, the band was very calm before the show, even with all that was about to transpire. You’d never have guessed what life-altering events were just hours away. They’re very patient, relatable guys. Except, you know, that they’ve just rocked the GRAMMY Awards, headlined the Electric Daisy Carnival, and now once again conquered the Avalon.

After a landmark show like this one, we can’t wait to see where they take their sound next. For those that are new to the band, there’s never been a better time to jump onboard.

Buy: Divided By Night on iTunes
Surf: www.thecrystalmethod.com/
Follow: twitter.com/CrystalMethod

Best of ’09: Federico Aubele Brings His “Amatoria” Album To The Troubadour

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we wanted to revisit an album that is certain to spice up the soundtrack to this special day. The sounds found on Federico Aubele’s Amatoria, proved to be so intoxicating that I’ve found myself (and my girlfriend) constantly replaying it from start to finish since its release over the summer. No surprise that it comes from one of our favorite labels, ESL Records, and I remember how I thrilled I was when Federico brought this beautiful album to life at The Troubadour this Autumn.

When I talked to him earlier in the day, I found that Federico Aubele knew all too well that his music inspires certain desires – particularly those of the baby-making variety.

“If you’re at the show and you feel like caressing and grabbing the person next to you, I won’t tell anybody,” he joked.

Following a rousing set by Castilian crooner DePedro, the honey-voiced Argentinean took to the stage, sporting his trademark Hendrix Experience afro. Accompanied by a crazy keyboardist, a newsboy drummer and an enticingly gyrating female vocalist, Aubele brought us all a little closer to the Southern Hemisphere for a good hour.

The songs he showcased from Amatoria were lovingly arranged for the live stage and his older songs also shined a little brighter as Federico has now taken over full vocal duties this time around. It’s certainly something that’s been a long time coming since his first album, Gran Hotel Buenos Aires, was released back in 2004.

“Ever since I did my first US tour, I started singing a lot more when I was on stage. I was only singing one song back then (2004), and the rest of the songs were sung by other female vocalists. So, I felt kind of stupid almost just sitting on stage in the center, being the guy that’s just playing guitar and just saying ‘thank you’ to people after the song was done. So that’s why I decided to start working on my vocals, but it was a very slow process. I just started singing more songs and more songs until eventually I was singing about ninety percent of the show!”

I just thought that it was about time I reflected that on record really, so that’s why I decided to take the step forward and do the lead vocals on this one.

The album, compared with his first two releases is a lot more personal and showcases a side to Federico that hasn’t been fully  revealed in the past. On songs like, “Este Amor,” and the gorgeous “Hermosa,” he really shines bright but it’s perhaps on the album’s instrumental closer, “Amatoria,” where he really lets you inside his heart.

“The whole idea behind the album was that I noticed that I would naturally write songs about love, so I decided I wanted to have an album only about love,” he shared.

To call his sound “world” music would be a grave mischaracterization as Aubele’s music is worldly music, splicing flamenco, tango and dub reggae into a unique concoction that reflects the guitarist’s sweeping travels. He’s lived for years at a time in Buenos Aires, Berlin, Barcelona and most recently settled down in New York, with his wife (and fellow ESL artist) Natalia Clavier.

“I moved to New York last February and I must say that it’s definitely a very exciting city with a lot of things going on. It’s very inspiring in a way to somehow be exposed to all that energy because that’s such a positive thing.”

Federico’s also got plenty of love for Los Angeles as well and often finds himself outside of the bright lights of the big city in search of some low key — yet still equally grand — pursuits.

“I’ve found some really excellent restaurants here,” he said. “I’m vegetarian myself and it was nice to find some nice spots and also some nice music stores where I’ve found some really good gear.”

The audience is also really, really receptive to my music and very supportive here.

Despite being a vegetarian, Federico still found time to sin in our city as he freely admitted to some recent gluttony.

“Well, last night I ordered this huge dessert. It was like a chocolate waffle with fudge and a lot of vanilla ice cream on it. I think that’s a deadly sin.”

We think Federico’s earned himself a few sinful City Of Angels experiences. Especially after giving me and so many other people an album to truly cherish with the ones you love the most.

Bluebird Films Brings Bawdy Fun to Your Television

In this economy, an evening of popcorn and movies is pretty common in most households.

The same truth stands in the de Lune household, but if you think we’re watching balloons and butterflies on screen, think again.  Instead, our weekend on-screen viewing pleasures included hot stars such as Cindy Behr, Kit and Kat Lee, Anna Lovato, Michelle Thorne, and Stacey Saran, among many others.  These star-studded seductresses graced our screen courtesy of Bluebird Films.

Lisa Massaro of Rising Star PR says, “Bluebird Films is a global producer of premium adult content, helmed by Paul Chaplin, the owner and creative force and producer/director and Bluebird CEO Nicholas Steele, with working studios in Los Angeles, London and Prague.”

With Halloween right around the corner, why wouldn’t we start with “Murder Mystery Weekend: Act 3: Styx & Stones”?  Since this was Act 3 in the five-part series, we were a bit confused at first, but we were quickly drawn into the action.

Among the many mysteries in “Murder Mystery Weekend” are: Why are there two chicks dressed like Cleopatra?  Why isn’t Sherlocka Holmes participating in the action?  Does she get horny watching the suspects getting it on while she watches through her spyglass?  And of course, who is the killer?

Well, don’t worry: Sherlocka (Cindy Behr) gets in on the action soon, and so do other hot stars such as Kit and Kat Lee, Valerie Pearl, Starr, Angel Long, Rebecca Smyth, Dirty Dog, Tony James, Pascal White, Sonny, Lezley Zen, Steve Hooper, Ben Dover, Stacey Saran, Paul Chaplin, Donna Marie, and Natalia Faith.  This third part of the series features a group of hedonistic houseguests in the throes of mystery and mayhem.  As the stiffs keep piling up and clues are discovered, the guests can’t seem to solve the case without becoming part of the body count.

At the beginning of Act 3, the milkman shows up to the mystery house and I bet you can’t guess what happens next.  As the mystery and intrigue crescendo, the houseguests try to help solve the mystery, but are distracted by each other.  Will they ever catch the killer?

Next in our queue was “TV Babes XXX: Volume 1” where Anna Lovato, Michelle Thorne, Heavenly, Mel Rook, Porcha Sins and Natasha Max act out every guy’s fantasy.

According to Lisa, “Glambirds are glamour girl models and tease queens “gone bad” exclusively as adult performers for Bluebird Films. See them all at www.glambirds.com.”

Ever wish you could see the sexy voices you hear through the phone right on your television set?  Now you can with “TV Babes XXX.”  As these busty babes fire up their feisty phone customers, the viewer can be a voyeur as the babes act out fervent fantasies with a mysterious guy with no pants.  You can also watch as the red-hot Anna Lovato gets into some lesbo-tronic action with Michelle Thorne, or see the mysterious no-pants guy revealed in the last scene.

Next in the queue was “Independence Day.”  Stacey Saran is a lover and a fighter for Welsh independence.  Can she rally these turned-on troops with her bangin’ bod?

Saran arrives on-site to assist horny miners by bringing a basket full of goodies, including many tasty treats such as leeks and the specially formulated Leekazade drink.  It turns out the patriotic and passionate independence fighter has concocted quite the aphrodisiac of energy drinks from leeks, and she has no problem getting people behind her for her crusade.  Believe me, you’ll learn about the many uses of this variable vegetable.

Join a carnal cast which includes Stacey Saran, Kit and Kat Lee, Tanya Cox, Farra Fox, Keisha Kane, Paige Ashley, Alexa Andeas, Kaia Kane, Emma Butt, Jordan Kingsley, Elle Brook, Sharon Pink, Anastasia Devine, Jamie Barry, Demi Daniels as well as Ben Dover and Paul Chaplin.

Look out for other titles by Bluebird films.  BATFXXX is getting quite a bit of buzz because of its high-quality production and special effects.  Lisa adds, “We’re very excited about the positive buzz and rave reviews that BATFXXX is receiving, including the interest from mainstream media and comic book aficionados. Considering the magnitude of the production, the size and caliber of the amazing cast, the special effects and the intensity of 9 sex scenes, it is deserving of both attention and accolades.”

We were impressed that Bluebird went the extra mile and actually incorporated themes you don’t see in many other adult films.  In fact, that formulaic repetition is challenged, leaving the viewer with quality, fun, creative entertainment that’s well worth the bucks.

Bluebird prides itself on this creativity and promises to deliver for upcoming flicks.  Lisa elaborates:  “Bluebird has a great wealth of material, with new releases every week. Two upcoming titles we’re particularly excited about are Inside Story and Cranked. Inside Story is a tawdry tale of glamorous and sexy 1950’s Hollywood, starring British page 3 tabloid model Linsey Dawn McKenzie, Glambird Gemma Massey and Bluebird US contract performer Madelyn Marie. Cranked is a thriller about an assassin who’s been poisoned and must have sex to stay alive and stars Bluebird exclusive Paige Ashley and Glambird Anna Lovato. Trailers for both of these features can be viewed on You Tube. Remember, ‘If You’ve Seen It Before, You’re Not Watching Bluebird!’”

Burning Man 09: A Jouney Through Time and Space with Smash LeFunk

As you enter the city in your dusty Chevy Cargo van at a slow clip as fellow “burners” start approaching your car to grab your attention – not to sell you anything (money is the root of most evil in this neck of the desert), but to bear gifts, simply because they feel like it. Condoms and Astro Glide magically find there way onto your lap. You look over to  your cohort, SpiderMonkey, who with a grin murmurs, “Welcome home, Smash.”

As you enter the gates, you begin to feel that familiar warm chill.
You have traveled far hoping to find peace of mind again.
The nude black greeter stops your car and demands a hug.
You have never hugged a big black naked man… or maybe you have.

The greeters are all naked this year. A colony of sorts, positioned in this far dry corner of…

Black Rock City.

It’s hard to sleep in this place. Adrenaline and heat wake your body. But time matters not here. Last night is still blurry. In fact, your last remembrance is a fire sonata and the Vanity Mirror playing a dub-step mashup of Mr. Gregory Isaac.  However, it is now time to hit the playa. You roam the desert streets in search of everything and nothing at all. All the essentials you need are in your life bag. I have dubbed it “Life Bag” because if you lose it your fucked. What’s in mine? Water, wine and whiskey, a mug to fill at the bars, cigarettes, camera, toilet paper in a ziplock, headlight, 13 lighters, condoms and AstroGlide, baby wipes, eyeliner, black lipstick, bandana, banana, nuts and a pen (as you never know when you will actually find your way back to camp). These are the Smash essentials.

You hit the Esplanade and veer. The vast desert is covered with everything that is unexpected. When a fire churning, green penis car creeps by and stops to grant you a “dance- Zep” under this desert sun you treat this as a privilege. One song and a swig from a bottle of brown later, the mean green penis slowly gathers it’s manhood to continue its journey down the playa. Likewise, you collect and do the same.

Time vanishes in Black Rock City. Days seem like minutes and minutes seem like years but here you wouldn’t want it any other way. Dusk and dawn mingle with dusty cocktails and a bag full of sin which signal that sleep will soon be forgotten.

You’ve always looked for a chance to escape. You once thought that you had found it buried deep in snow, where the cold had a chance to numb the soul. But with the playa now covering you, while dusty eyebrows and cracked lips are in accordance with the day, you have somehow escaped your white collar shirt and watch to find yourself in the middle of nowhere wearing nothing but your best Mad Max impersonation. This nowhere has treated us all very well. But there is no reason to define this playpen. This fantasy island is very real and then you hit yourself with a dusty black dildo you found on a random tabletop just to make sure you are not dreaming. On any other occasion, this might seem disgusting, but here, anything goes. Anything.

So how can anyone leave paradiso? Who in their righteous minds could truly come back from this amazing experience and look at their street corners with the same monotonous eye?

As intriguing as this sinful land might be, one must know the limits to their candy intake. I myself, have been regularly known to sugar up my spices (which adds to the flavor, of course), but even Mr. LeFunk knows that too much candy is bad for the teeth.

Fortunately,  I have found a remedy to this harsh reality: Tales From The Playa.

The stories that ensue from that one magical week are enough to last a lifetime – they thicken a man’s skin, adding color to their persona. This is how burners find one another in a nation of millions – all it takes is a glance.

Sharing the tales of your incredible journey with the loved ones on your list of   “Friends that Should Be Drunk With Me on the Playa…Right Now” is essential to keeping Burning Man alive. The act of passing on these stories reinforces its essence – it creates that curiosity that we have lost long ago – the search for the new.

Talking about this dusty corner of the earth also reminds you how much you miss Black Rock City – not necessarily a bad thing, for I believe that missing the playa is a piece of the reason to why we return.

Even now, many months  after those unforgettable moments, my experiences have not fallen victim to dusty memories – because while I might not remember what I did yesterday, I will as sure as sin remember every waking moment of my time at Burning Man.