A Sky High Dinner Party at the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown

It’s not difficult to find the brand new InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown. All you have to do is look up. Soaring 73 floors high, in the tallest building west of Chicago, this sky scraping hotel has a bird’s-eye view over Los Angeles. And in a city where buildings are usually shorter than the palm trees, the InterContinental LA Downtown literally stands out above the rest. The backdrop of the the 70th floor lobby, the open air Spire 73 bar, and each individual room, is naturally , the panoramic views of this expansive city. And each window has it’s own display of LA’s starlets: the Hollywood sign, the Staples Center, LA Live, Echo Park, and the San Gabriel mountains. Of course at night, all these stars twinkle across the skyline.

Spire 73 InterContinental Downtown Los Angeles

I’ve been lucky enough to check out some of the brands within the IHG family of hotels, staying at the brand new Holiday Inn Express in Waikiki and covering an event last year at the business focused Crowne Plaza near LAX. This time I was eager to see what the posh InterContinental brand was bringing to the table. I knew that InterContinental has been a leader international luxury brand for over a century, and this DTLA opening puts the property count at 190 InterCons worldwide. As you might have guessed, my expectations were almost as high at this 1100 foot building. Not only was the architecture notable, but the impressive listing of dining and drink options within hotel has had LA buzzing about it since its opening in June of this year.

Spire 73 InterContinental Downtown LA IHG

Last week, I was finally able to experience the dizzying heights for myself as a guest at the IHG Rewards Club and Mastercard #PricelessExperiences dinner. My ears popped as the high tech elevators transported us up 70 floors in the air, in just under 40 seconds. As the doors opened, we stepped out into the chic lobby, with reservationists standing in front of floor to ceiling windows. Up 3 more floors and we were standing under the stars at Spire 73, the highest open-air bar in the entire Western Hemisphere! Its no wonder every seat was taken with all the classy cocktails, tantalizing appetizers and DIY s’mores plates I spied passing by. The twinkling lights of LA wrapped around glass walls, hugging the bar with the most impressive backdrop. I couldn’t believe that I was actually looking down on all the skyscrapers and helipads of downtown.

InterContinental Downtown Los Angeles

Just opposite Spire 73, the other half of the rooftop was reserved just for our IHG Rewards Club and MasterCard Priceless Table event. An al fresco party with 180 degree views all to ourselves–my excitement levels continued to rocket up.

Alex Ott alchemist InterContinental Downtown Los Angeles

The evening began with the probably the most creative libations I’ve ever seen firsthand, courtesy of “sensory ringmaster,” Alex Ott. Alex started off by introducing us to a special elixir, pure Spilanthes flower extract, which claims to be a miracle food, aiding in everything from hangovers to cancer.

Spilanthes Flower Alex Ott alchemist InterContinental Downtown Los Angeles

At $800 per drop, we were careful not to spill as Alex placed just a few milligrams of this golden liquid on our fingertips. But one drop was plenty to feel an unusual tingling on my tongue, which apparently was the stimulation of my salivary glands. I half expected to turn into Wonder Woman and fly off the rooftop, but I’ll settle with having our palates cleansed. Tastebuds prepped, we now were able to fully appreciate the complex flavors in Alex’s curated list of signature cocktails. Ingredients like kava kava tea, levigated pearl and R-Lipoic Acid infused each cocktail with beneficial properties that ranged from improved memory, increased energy and calming relaxation. Benefits aside, the ones we tried were perfectly balanced, not too sweet and thoroughly enjoyable.

 Alex Ott cocktails InterContinental Downtown Los Angeles

Appetites whetted, we still had a dreamy, 4 course dinner awaiting us, courtesy of Chef Ray Garcia. As this year’s Esquire chef of the year, I was familiar with Chef Garcia but had never tasted his cooking. I was impressed that IHG had not only secured such a notable “chef of the moment,” but they also selected someone who is such a big part of the burgeoning local scene. Downtown LA has quickly grown to be a foodie hotspot, with new openings and star chefs, like Ray Garcia.

Chef Ray Garcia

I couldn’t resist snapping many photos of the two long tables, perfectly set for our dinner. They were meticulously adorned with a collection of exotic flowers, hued in graduating colors from vibrant reds to vivid corals, then on to bright oranges and popping yellows. The elegance of the tables was only elevated when the masterful string quartet began by playing familiar pop songs in a soft, classical style.

Priceless Tables IHG Rewards Club InterContinental LA

With the full moon beaming down on this truly #Priceless scene, I grasped how moments like these were what the IHG brand was all about. This evening’s magic could not be recreated, and that was precisely the point. The ambiance, the quality and setting was all carefully crafted in order for each member attending to experience an exceptional night. The same way that the InterContinental focuses on the highest level of luxury, tonight was all about pampering, surprising and delighting. Overwhelmed with the breathtaking scene, I felt grateful to have a seat at this table and be part of something so special–and I hadn’t even tasted the food!

As I mentioned, my hopes for dinner with as high as our tables and Chef Garcia’s menu went ever further above and beyond. A vegetarian ceviche, using cauliflower, was a surprising and flavorful start. It was very delicate in preparation and I didn’t even miss the fish!

Cauliflower Ceviche Chef Ray Garcia

The second dish that followed, ended up being my personal favorite of the whole night. We enjoyed a giant scallop with molé blanco, sunchokes and hazelnuts. Each bite of the seared, locally caught scallop, literally melted in my mouth. Chef Garcia paired it so beautifully with the earthy flavors of the nuts and sunchokes. And though you think one scallop might not be enough, think again. This was easily the largest scallop I’ve ever seen, or eaten.

Scallop Chef Ray Garcia

For the main, Chef Garcia played on typical “carnitas” with a meaty combination of prime beef short rib, foie gras, truffle and bone marrows. Does it get any more carnivorously decadent than that? I enjoyed this dish but did find myself overwhelmed by the richness of it all.

Carnitas with Truffle Foie Gras Chef Ray Garcia

We ended with a not-too-sweet profiterol, topped with unique pale green, fig leaf ice cream. I’d never thought about tasting fig leaves but in ice cream form, it was delicious! Each bite of this dessert was an adventure of different flavors, like brown butter, stoneground chocolate and juicy raisin.

profiterol Chef Ray Garcia

As we toasted to new friends, delicious food, healthy cocktails and a stunning hotel, one word came to mind: hospitality. Strangers sitting next to me felt like friends. A top chef and a famed alchemist engaged in open conversations with the guests. The staff anticipated all our needs before we even realized them, including bringing me a blanket as the evening temperatures started to cool.

InterContinental Downtown LA IHG

Of course, IHG is a diverse family of hotel brands, each with it’s own traveler type and personality. The Holiday Inn Express brand has modern efficiency, the Crowne Plazas offer upscale convenience, and the InterContinental hotels celebrate their location through luxury. But as much as they are different, all the hotels share an intense feeling of hospitality. This goes beyond the requisite greetings and smiles that you find in the “hospitality industry.” There’s a genuine sincerity in every interaction, an actual desire to make your stay as welcoming as possible. That is not easy to find at most hotels around the world. With the IHG Brands, you are more than just honored guests, you are family.

Firepits on the roof of InterContinental Downtown LA

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG). The opinions and text are all mine.

If any of my musings has made you want to experience an IHG hotel for yourself, I encourage you to enter their trip giveaway! Share a #TravelFirsts on Instagram or Twitter to be entered to win a trip to NYC, Las Vegas, New Orleans, or here to LA. Let me know if you enter and I’ll cross my fingers for you! Link to learn about the contest is here.

More photos from the evening below:

My Coachella Journey with GoPro

2 Friends + 2 GoPros + 1 Jucy Campervan = 1 epic weekend at Coachella Music Festival 2015. Explore more of this magical, musical, camping journey and see why Coachella is best done by camping!

 

The Monkey Tree Hotel in Palm Springs

If you haven’t visited Palm Springs yet, you need to go. It is like no other place I’ve ever been. And this little boutique hotel is the perfect oasis for your exploration in the desert. The Monkey Tree Hotel has retro charm, spacious & stylish rooms, great breakfast, fun pools & ideal location in Palm Springs. I have a perfect weekend away, lounging in the floating flamingos, enjoying free Sangria at the tiki bar, using their hot/cold tubs & sauna and just hanging our 1960s theme room.
This hotel has a whole lot of history too! Designed in 1960 by Albert Frey, the Monkey Tree Hotel was a favorite among the Hollywood glamorous set. JFK, Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Ball, Bob Hope, Katherine Hepburn, the Beatles… the list goes on. Ask the husband & wife owners about this–they know all the 60s gossip!

Harry Potter World & Grinchmas at Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood has a lot of celebrities at Christmas time: Harry Potter, The Grinch, Jurassic Park Dinosaurs… and I spent the day visiting them all and filming on my GoPro! Harry Potter World just opened earlier in 2016 so I spent a magical day checking out Hogwarts, Hogsmeade, the rides, the foods, the wands and the Butterbeer!

And since it was Christmas season, they even had Who-Ville, with the Grinch, the famous Who Christmas Tree and many Who’s walking about, ready to speak with you.
We even snuck in a Jurassic Park ride!
I hope this GoPro vlog guide helps you make the most of your trip to Universal! Tip: Don’t bother with the butterbeer!

MacArthur Place in Sonoma, California

Recently, I checked out the MacArthur Place, a boutique property just steps from downtown Sonoma in

Recently, I checked out the MacArthur Place, a boutique property just steps from downtown Sonoma in wine country of Northern California.. I very much enjoyed the layout of the property with all the rooms in cottages throughout a nicely manicured lawn and garden areas. The pool was a refreshing treat, as was the daily wine & cheese hour. The little luxuries here made our stay that much better and the rooms were very well appointed. Don’t miss Saddles Restaurant when you go–their steakhouse is one of the best dinners in town. For all the details: the good, the bad and the ugly, watch my review!

What to do for the 4th of July in Los Angeles

July Fourth is one of my favorite holidays (#2 on the list to be exact.) I mean, what’s not to love about a holiday that a). includes a day off from work, b.) involves hanging out all day with friends & family, c.) every American, regardless of religion, can participate and d.) promotes barbecues, cocktails and being outside. To me, it also marks that it is full blown SUMMER season. Oh, and Fireworks are just a cherry on top.

As an LA transplant, I scoured this little town for the best goings on this Fourth of July. Take your pick.

1. In a Pool

This partyparty pool at Mondrian will definitely make your Fourth one to remember (albeit hazily).  The Skybar is hosting all day DJs, cocktails, fun pool floaties and jaw dropping LA views–what’s not to love? Tickets are reasonable at $25 and available here. I was sold by the photos of their recent Memorial Day party.

2. On the Water

Whiskey Red's

Hit up Marina del Rey’s Burton Chace Park, make a reservation at a waterfront restaurant or find a friend with boat. You won’t get better sunset or fireworks views and as the nearest host of the fireworks on the beach, the atmosphere will be festive to say the least. If you are going the picnic in the park route, get there EARLY. Spots are usually filled by 6pm for the 9pm fireworks.

Whiskey Red’s, located right along the scenic marina, is hosting a buffet barbecue and reservations are being taken now for patio ($62.95) or indoor seating (52.95)–but come on people, you want the patio.

3. On a Roof

erwin

High, the rooftop of Venice’s funky hotel gives you unobstructed views of the fireworks, the sunset and the pretty people that are sitting at the tables next to you. A table reservation gets you 2 beers, a cocktail, a gourmet sausage and DJ to complete the perfect summer evening. What’s more American than that?

4. On a Boat

queenmarycunard

The Queen Mary is welcoming revelers on board for a day filled of events–from a circus to a Great Gatsby party, each decade from the 1940s will be represented, letting attendees party through the ages. The ticket gets you on board and access to the events, plus prime viewing of the Long Beach fireworks from the deck. Purchase your tickets here for a hefty discount ($26 vs $44 on their website).

 

The Parker Palm Springs

The Hotel Snob goes to the shishi Parker Palm Springs to see what all the fuss is about. She indulges her way through Norma’s, the Lemonade Stand, saltwater pools and the various lawn games, all underneath the swaying palms and bright blue sky of the desert. Watch her review.

Four Seasons The Biltmore Santa Barbara

Oceanfront views: check. Stunning grounds: check. Fantastic restaurant: check. Croquet: check.
The Four Seasons The Biltmore Santa Barbara ticks off a lot of boxes–watch the full review to find out if it’s worth the splurge for getaway.

Kona Kai Resort & Spa

The Hotel Snob heads to San Diego for a weekend of fun in the sun. Shelter Island’s Kona Kai Resort & Spa has marina views, a private beach, lively pool scene and a recently renovated restaurant, Vessel. With a their brand new Spa Terre with famed treatments–which is why this casual beachy boutique full of laidback San Diego charm was a must stay for the Hotel Snob.

Parker Palm Springs

The Hotel Snob goes to the shishi Parker Palm Springs to see what all the fuss is about. She indulges her way through Norma’s, the Lemonade Stand, saltwater pools and the various lawn games, all underneath the swaying palms and bright blue sky of the desert. Watch her review.