The doctor is in

Kenley and I were excited when our friend Jeff Dinkins told us he and his girlfriend would be in town a few days before they headed up the coast to San Francisco, where Jeff was attending a conference.

Jeff graduated from the University of South Carolina and is a doctor in Nashville. For the past several New Year’s Eves, he has hosted a big group of friends at a beach house in Folly Beach, S.C. It is always a blast.

So Kenley and I were happy to return the favor and host Jeff and Ashley on their first trip to Los Angeles.

The couple arrived on the Sunday that Kenley and I got back from Pete Johnson’s wedding (see previous blog post) in San Francisco.

We had dinner at Eveleigh on the Sunset Strip. While the Strip has a rowdy reputation, Eveleigh is kinda like walking into someone’s farmhouse. Some say it is one of the best new restaurants of 2011. There’s a large enclosed deck in the back with a nice view of the city. But our corner table was a little chilly on an October evening. I ordered pappardelle, which was nice and hearty. Kenley had hangar steak, which was juicy and flavorful. He was bemused by his potatoes, which had been cut into salty squares. He initially mistook them for Wheat Thins.

I want to go back for brunch and enjoy the deck on a warmer day.

On Saturday, we took Jeff and Ashley on an abbreviated version of what Kenley now calls the Shellevation tour. We started at The Grove, an outdoor shopping and entertainment center near Beverly Hills. We spotted TV show host and former “Saved by the Bell” hunk Mario Lopez filming the entertainment news show “Extra.” We watched as he filmed his intro with producers, who watched it back and then asked him to do another take. I’m not sure Jeff and Ashley were too impressed by this star sighting, but then neither were Kenley’s parents when they visited The Grove.

Instead of eating from one of the vendors in the Farmers Market, we ate at Marmalade Cafe, which is a bright, cheery mini-chain in the Los Angeles area.

We then drove into the Holllywood Hills along the winding Mulholland Drive, with stops to look out on University City to the north and the Hollywood sign to the east.

We ended up at Hollywood and Highland, where we looked at the stars on the sidewalk in front of the Kodak Theatre and the hand-and-feet imprints of the stars in the courtyard of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

We stopped for a snack at Crumbs Bake Shop, where I got a pumpkin cupcake. (I’m just a bit obsessed with anything pumpkin-flavored during the fall months. The promised blog post dedicated to my obsession is coming soon.) For those of you who share my pumpkin obsession, the Crumbs cupcake was like a carrot cake, made with raisins and walnuts. I’m not a big fan of raisins (which Kenley can’t quite understand), but it still had that yummy pumpkin flavor. And it was topped with pumpkin cream-cheese icing!

Later that afternoon, after we dropped Kenley off at work, we got cocktails at Coast, the oceanside restaurant at Shutters on the Beach, one of the most exclusive hotels in Santa Monica. It’s a sunny room that looks out on the boardwalk and the Santa Monica Pier. It would be a pretty place to have breakfast or a light lunch before a day on the beach, but there are better places for happy hour with more dramatic views of the ocean.

I had mentioned earlier that Lindsay Lohan lives in Venice Beach. Ashley was interested in seeing where some of the stars lived, so we googled “Lindsay Lohan” and “Venice address” and easily found this article in LA Weekly.

So yes, I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but we drove by. We might have even parked the car nearby and walked by on the way down to the Venice boardwalk. But I won’t admit it if you ask.

LiLo and I are practically neighbors, since my apartment complex is off Venice Boulevard. I didn’t see any paparazzi parked outside. And she didn’t come out and invite us up to her rooftop.

Turns out she was a little busy. Lohan has been working two days a week at the county morgue after she didn’t show up for her court-mandated community service at a women’s shelter. Read the story in the Los Angeles Times blog. She also managed to find time for a Playboy shoot and reshoot at Hugh Hefner’s request. Read more about the Playboy shoot on the FOX News website if you want to. And in case you’re interested, Lohan will grace the pages of the January issue of Playboy, which will hit newstands in late December. Happy New Year!

For dinner, we headed back to Santa Monica for sushi at sugarFISH. Jeff and Ashley found the restaurant on Yelp!, but there’s another location in the shopping center where I work, and I had been wanting to try it. SugarFISH is either one of the best sushi restaurants or the worst, depending on how you feel about raw fish. The chef, Kazunori Nozawa, is known for embracing traditional sushi over the American style that many of us are used to. To be fair, the menu comes with a warning:

Each dish is to be enjoyed with the balance of
ingredients based on Nozawa’s recipes. All dishes
with sauce should not be dipped in soy.
Please understand he does not honor requests for
extra sauces, salt, or additional rice.

We decided to order a la carte rather than the strongly encouraged “Trust Me” menus. I ordered organic edamame, plus the two pieces of Nozawa Shrimp and two pieces of tuna sushi. I’m usually not all that adventurous when it comes to sushi, and I usually order spicy tuna rolls, which of course are not on the menu at sugarFISH. In fact, there are no tuna rolls at all.

But these pieces of tuna sushi (small slabs of raw tuna on top of blocks of sticky rice) melted in your mouth. I also sampled one of Jeff’s and Ashley’s blue-crab rolls, which was salty but tasty, kinda like crab salad inside a sushi roll.

The people at the table next to us apparently weren’t familiar with the sugarFISH way and did not understand why the chef could not make a tuna roll when there was tuna sushi on the menu. The waitress tried to explain. The chef came to the table, and I think he ultimately said he would accommodate their request. But they apparently were so put off, they decided to leave.

Next time, I must try the albacore, which was voted one of the best by LA Weekly in its annual “best of” edition. And I can’t wait to see what Kenley thinks. I was there when he tried sushi the first time. For a moment, I thought he was going to lose it. But he kept the Philadelphia roll down and now even craves sushi every once in a while.

If you’re like me, dessert is a must after sushi. Luckily, Ashley felt the same and there was a Pinkberry yogurt right around the corner on the 3rd Street Promenade.  And guess what the featured flavor was? Pumpkin!

(Two side notes: You should click on the Pinkberry link above just to listen to the company’s theme song: “Sorry, ice cream.” Well, Kenley and I both love you, Pinkberry, but we’re afraid nothing can take ice cream’s place. And don’t worry, Angie and Kristine — the Pinkberry pumpkin yogurt is not nearly as good as “The Shelley” from Marble Slab, which is pumpkin and cinnamon ice cream mixed together with a caramel swirl in a waffle cone. Try it. You’ll thank me.)

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