I'd be safe and warm if I was in LA (part I)...*

I am still under the shock of leaving Los Angeles at 82 degrees (F) yesterday afternoon and arriving Brooklyn at 20 degrees (F) covered with snow last night. I think I am a little disoriented... Spending almost twenty days under warm Californian sunshine in the middle of December made me totally forget where I live.

I know that it has been a long time since my last blog post. I was working pretty hard in LA and also trying to make the best use of any free minute we had by waking up very early every morning and coming back to the hotel pretty late every night. To be honest like every year we had great food, great company and good time in LA. Back in New York when I sat behind my kitchen table to think what to write I started making a list to get organized. After a while the list started to look so good to me and I decided simply to pick the best ten and post here.

So, here is the part I of my "topten things to do in Los Angeles (winter 2010)" list:

The Huntington: Built on 600-acre ranch in San Marino owned by Henry and Arabella Huntington the property is dedicated to the couple's amazing collection of books, artifacts, artworks and plants after their death in late 1920's. The gardens and greenhouses spread around the mansions hosts all kind of rare and beautiful plants from all around the world. It is the best collection of plants I have seen in any botanical garden. In the library you can see on exhibit one of the only 48 surviving copies of the Gutenberg Bible, a copy of William Shakespeare's First Folio, a copy of John James Audubon's Birds of America, first editions of Galileo Galilei, Sir isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and many other invaluable books and prints. It is a trip you want to spend your whole day around, definitely worth the trip to San Marino.

Grand Central Market: Built in 1917 Grand Central Market is still one of the best places you can have your lunch in downtown area with locals. Like many others all around the world it is a perfect chaotic food market with cheap crowded food vendors, spice, fruit and vegetable stands, rushing customers and always busy dining areas. From the first minute you walk in you have a feeling of being in the right place. Tacos and tostadas from Jose Chiquito and spicy sea food ceviche from Maria's Fresh Seafood were absolutely amazing.

The Varnish: Owned by Eric Alperin and Sasha Petraske The Varnish is a prohibition era speakeasy style bar located in a out of sight back room of Cole's French Dip Restaurant. The space is small, cozy, always crowded and a well kept LA secret. Eric Alperin is a wizard of old school American cocktails. Vieux Carre, Kentucky River and American Trilogy are highly recommended for whisk(e)y fans but the real experience is to ask the bar staff to fix something for you. They are extremely helpful to find the perfect cocktail for your taste. It is not a place to rush the bar staff though. Every cocktail is made from scratch in front of your eyes with perfect precision in a very traditional way and it takes time. It is pretty amazing to watch Eric Alperin work. You should find a seat at the bar and take your time to enjoy your drink.

Nickel Diner: Definitely the best place to have a breakfast or brunch in downtown area. Everything in the menu is to die for. Do not mind the line in front of the restaurant at weekends and wait patiently for a table. I promise it will be worth to wait for. I had the best french toast I ever had there but like I said everything in the menu deserves equal amount of attention. Maple bacon donut is their signature item and a perfect way to finish your brunch on a lazy, sunny Sunday morning. Yummy...

Cana Rum Bar: Located in one of the far corners of a parking lot Cana is one of the newest joints owned by 213 which I was planning to visit for a long time. It is a small place decorated like an eighties gentlemen's club with an open air cigar lounge. Their rum inventory is pretty impressive. Thanks to the bartender for hosting a small scale tasting for me. I had a chance to taste some very rare and tasty rums which I would like to talk more here some time soon. It was a real good night...

*by The Mamas & The Papas from their song California Dreamin'