dineLA and the Los Angeles Food & Wine festival

As Mayor Anotonio Villaraigosa graced a stage yesterday near two of my favorite downtown restaurants; DRAGO and CHAYA, he gave us his mega-watt smile. He comfortably faced a crowd of chefs, media and VIPs welcoming everyone to the 5th dineLA week starting on October 2-7 and 9-14.

“dineLA is becoming tops in our city due to our diversity,” announced Villaraigosa. “Our chefs combine food from all over the world.” Mayor Villaraigosa enthusiastically revealed a new event to Los Angeles, the Food &Wine festival, with over 100 celebrity chefs, 300 wineries and 70 events from Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Downtown LA and Hollywood. “Los Angeles used to be second, third, fourth or fifth in the culinary world, behind New York and San Francisco. Now we are becoming #1,” enthused Villaraigosa. “This event demonstrates the strength of our culinary community.” dineLA brings in about $6.2 million to the city of Los Angeles.

The Mayor introduced celebrity chef, Wolfgang Puck, to the podium to discuss more about the Los Angeles Food & Wine festival on October 13 -16. “Mayor, with your smile and ease shaking people’s hands, when you are finished with your term as Mayor of our city and after you are Governor, will you please be a maitre d’ at one of my restaurants?” solicited Puck.  As the crowd laughed, Puck shared that the first restaurant he worked at was three floors below where we were seated.

Puck is extremely excited to bring the Food & Wine event from Pebble Beach, CA to Los Angeles. The hope is to bring an additional $4.9 million impact to our city. With 70 events ranging from wine tastings to intimate dinners with celebrity chefs and a Wolfgang Puck Sunday brunch at the newly re-opened Hotel Bel-Air. All the proceeds from the tickets will go to the Saint Vincent Meals on Wheels foundation.  Puck has been involved with this wonderful philanthropy for 28 years.

dineLA begins October 2-7 serving lunch courses from $16, $22 or $28 and three-course dinners from $26 to $44. If diners enroll an eligible American Express card by scanning QR code or visiting sync.americanexpress.com/foursquare to sync to foursquare. Load your dineLA special discount by going on foursquare and check-in. Use your synced American Express card between Oct. 2-7 and Oct. 9-14 at one of the participating dineLA restaurants and receive a $5 statement credit when you spend $21 or more.

(Photo 1: Mayor Villaragoisa and Celestino Drago)  (Photo 2: Wolfgang Puck)

To learn more about these exciting culinary events, go to www.dineLARestaurantWeek.com. For more information on the Los Angeles Food  & Wine event October 13-16, go to www.LAFW.com.

Sister SAM and the Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival

Today I had the privilege of meeting an incredible woman, Sister Alice Marie Quinn from the St. Vincent Meals on Wheels. She makes sure that over 4500 home cooked meals are delivered daily to home bound seniors and younger people with cancer, MS and AIDS. The privately funded organization does not turn anyone away in need of a healthy meal, regardless of age, illness, disability, race, religion or ability to pay.

“Homeless can walk to get a meal, but the homebound are lonely and isolated,” shared Sister Alice Marie (aka Sister SAM). “We also bring meals to two schools in low -income communities. We feed the kindergarteners and first grade kids. They have pickier tastes, because they aren’t from the United States,” said SAM. “They don’t like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, purple colored yogurt or food cut into pieces,” declared SAM with a smile. “We find out what type of foods they will eat and deliver them to these children.”

Her five chefs arrive at 4:30 a.m. every morning to prepare the meals in a 16,000 sq. ft kitchen. “It’s really a lovely kitchen,” enthused SAM. “Some meals are cold, others are hot and some are fresh frozen.”

 Daryl Twerdahl, Executive Director of St. Vincent Meals on Wheel Foundation expressed to me “An organization in South East LA lost their government funding and had to close, leaving 140 homebound seniors without a meal.  They called SAM and she immediately accepted them into our program.”

World-class celebrity chef, Wolfgang Puck, heard about SAM and St. Vincent Meals on Wheels 28 years ago. He decided to get involved and has helped the organization raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. This year he is hosting the Los Angeles Wine and Food Festival on October 13 – 16, 2011 with a portion of the proceeds going to the St. Vincent Meals on Wheels.

The four-day festival will include 70 different events across Los Angeles (Santa Monica, Downtown, Beverly Hills and Hollywood), with over 100 celebrity chefs and 300 acclaimed wines. Some of the fun events include I Heart Champagne & Caviar at L’Ermitage – $195 per person and Wolfgang Puck – Live, Learn and Love at LA Live – $150 per person. Wolfgang uses his celebrity status for a good cause. He believes Sister Sam’s program is vital to those in need of a healthy meal in our community.

To learn more about St. Vincent Meals on Wheels, go to www.stvincentmow.org

To learn more about dineLA, click on www.dineLARestaurantWeek.com

To read a schedule of events at the Los Angeles Food & Wine festival, log onto:


Heather Graham – Judy Moody Movie

When Heather Graham skated onscreen in the movie Boogie Nights, I knew she would become a big star. She just has that “It” factor. Later she appeared in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Swingers, Bowfinger, Six Degrees of Separation and the smash hit, Hangover. I met with Graham in Beverly Hills to find out more about the beautiful, blue-eyed actress.

 JW: What is your favorite thing to do on weekends when you are not filming?

 HG: Saturday mornings I love to hang out in Venice and attend a Yoga class. My favorite class to take is Vinnie Marino’s at Yoga Works on Main St. Marino is one of the most popular Vinyasa flow teachers in Los Angeles. He uses a blend of music and alignment and leads workshops and retreats throughout the world.

After yoga, I grab a bite at a nearby restaurant in Venice.

 JW: Aunt Opal in the movie Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer is a bit like an off-beat Mary Poppins. What was your favorite part of the role?

 HG: Opal is very childlike, artistic and a free spirit. She lives in the moment and likes to have fun. I loved the wardrobe she wore and wanted to take many of the pieces home with me. The dancing sequence with Jordana (Judy Moody) was a lot of fun. We had a good time dancing on the table.

 JW: What a difference it was for you finishing Hangover and then working on a movie with children. What was it like working with kids?

HG: It was a lot of fun. I adore my friend’s kids and wanted to do something that they could see me in. Jordana and I did yoga together in our trailers to get acquainted. I also decorated her trailer for Halloween. Since she is from Australia, they don’t celebrate Halloween. I also took her to Toluca Lake to go trick-or-treating. They decorate the houses there to look like movie sets.

JW: I understand you are an avid traveler. Where are some of your favorite places to visit?

HG: Tibet is very spiritual. Mexico is fun for some rest and relaxation. I love the sights in Italy and really enjoyed Morocco.  Also, I love going to Cambodia. I do charity work in Cambodia as an ambassador to Children International and sponsor kids. It’s a non profit humanitarian organization dedicated to bettering the lives of impoverished children, their families and communities. 

JW: Are you reading any good books right now?

HG: I just finished Freedom by Jonathan Franzen and I adore the Hunger Games Trilogy.

JW: What projects are you working on next?

HG: I recently finished three films: The Flying Machine, Cherry with James Franco and Fortune with Kim Basinger, Catherine O’Hara.

My prediction was right.  She is a gorgeous actress with a beautiful future.