Tagged Los Angeles

Hello Kitty’s Supercute Friendship Festival launches in Los Angeles June 11

Summer season is concert season. That means that the Wander Crew is gearing up for a lot of festivals, concerts and tours in the next few months. While one of our editors is heading to Outsidelands in San Francisco, and another is covering San Diego festivals, we are all letting our Sanrio-loving selves get super excited for Hello Kitty’s Supercute Friendship Festival, launching in Los Angeles on June 11.

For those of you who are unaware, Hello Kitty isn’t just for little girls anymore. We loved getting to know all of Hello Kitty’s universe at Hello Kitty Con earlier this year, and her friends of all ages came together to enjoy the fancy free fun that comes with Hello Kitty and her fantastic friends. Hello Kitty’s Supercute Friendship Festival will be a great way to dive right back into that world.

Going beyond a traditional live stage show, Hello Kitty’s Supercute Friendship Festival offers a unique multi-component walk-around festival atmosphere for Sanrio fans of all ages.

If you are looking for a Keroppi purse, a Badtz-Maru blouse, or even some Pochacco, you’ll be able to grab one in between the live interactive shows, photo ops, and a few Sanrio surprises. Fans are invited to put on their finest Hello Kitty gear, and enjoy all of the elements that the Friendship Festival has to offer, such as:

  • DJ-driven dance segments with KRU HK dancers.
  • Hello Kitty and friends “in concert” with both characters and live singers and KRU HK dancers.
  • Larger-than-life Hello Kitty product photo opportunities.
  • Hello Kitty temporary tattoos.
  • Lounge areas to relax and charge your mobile devices.
  • Fashion Lane – view high fashion couture pieces inspired by Hello Kitty and friends.
  • Art Gallery featuring works by contemporary artists.
  • Hello Kitty retro product and Japanese heritage displays.
  • Pop-up Mini Shopping Kiosks.
  • Hello Kitty Origami workshops.

There are various ticket options available, including a VIP Platinum Bow  experience that lets you take photos with Hello Kitty herself!

For tour date information, go to Hello Kitty’s Supercute Friendship Festival Tour page. For more information about the Friendship Festival and all of the excitement heading your way, check out the Hello Kitty’s Supercute Friendship Festival website.

Los Angeles Times The Taste 2014 knocks it out of the back lot with stellar food, libations

Taste LA 2014: The calm before the storm.

Written by Nadia Ibanez

As a lifelong San Diego resident, I’m no stranger to an Indian Summer. So when it comes time to celebrate the “end of summer” with the rest of the country, I’ll politely oblige knowing that season is in full swing back at home. That being said, my new favorite way to send off summer is at the Los Angeles Times The Taste event over Labor Day Weekend. It’s definitely one of my favorite foodie fests in LA and I’m always so happy when I’m invited back to cover the event.

A Hollywood back lot set and the Umami food truck. You can’t get any more LA than that.

The sun was shining (or shall I say, blazing), the Paramount Studios back lot was sparkling, the food was amazing and the drinks were perfect. I was fully prepared to spend the next 48 hours eating and drinking some of the best of the best from the city.

Only Los Angeles restaurants could make food look so glamorous

We were in the presence of culinary greats like Thomas Keller and Nancy Silverton who enlightened us during cooking demos and round table discussions and were among executive chefs who we’ve been fawning over for years.

Here’s a look at our favorite bites and drinks from the Taste 2014.

One of my favorite events from the Taste was Field to Fork where local chefs and restaurants put a spotlight on locally-sourced ingredients.

The spread from Tender Greens, also found in San Diego, was delicious. The fig fricassee and watercress salad was perfect for the hot day, along with grilled corn gazpacho and the olive oil cupcakes.

The spread from Tender Greens

Light bites and chilled dishes were wholly welcome during the day events as temperatures felt as if they were reaching the 90s on the back lot. I absolutely loved the presentation of this Summer Vegetable Parfait.

This beautiful summer parfait was topped with parmesan yogurt and fennel pollen.

Seafood seemed to be the star each evening and this Octopus Garden from The Raymond 1886 definitely created a buzz with its tuna can-like presentation.

Grilled octopus and heirloom tomatoes were the perfect combination

One of the best parts of indulging in a food fest is tasting concoctions of ingredients you would have never known to be complementary. The Church Key was doing some amazing things at the Dinner with a Twist event with their Crispy Pork Belly. The meat was covered in a Gochujang glaze before placed on top of a pillow of cashew butter. The dish was absolutely heavenly.

Pork belly, Gochujang, cashew butter…who would have thunk it.

By far, my favorite bite of the weekend was probably the smallest. Craig’s offered a Corn Flan topped with smoked salmon and caviar. The Butterscotch Pudding really helped to balance the bite and I can’t wait to check out the restaurant in its full glory.

The best things come in small packages. The Corn Flan from Craig’s.

If you’ve been reading my articles long enough, you’re well aware that I have an extremely adventurous spirit. So it should be no surprise to you that I fully committed to tasting the “weirdest” and most adventurous bite of the weekend. Loteria Grill changed its menu nearly every hour and I was excited to try out their Grasshopper Tostadita.

Grasshopper is delicious, if you can get past the crunch exoskeleton.

The mixologists, wine makers and spirit purveyors were in full-force during the Taste and we loved trying everything. I loved trying out American Star’s line of artisanal vodkas. I especially loved the Caviar Lime vodka tonic with fresh caviar lime pulps that popped in my mouth.

The Caviar Lime Vodka Tonic is a MUST!

My lifesaver though throughout the weekend was the Frozen Kirin Ichiban. The beer was topped with a slushee like Kirin beer and it was perfect for the hot summer day. I hear this is only available at Angels Stadium but I’ll be on the hunt for others offering up this awesome drink.


My mouth is yearning for this frozen beer from Kirin Ichiban.

Lastly, I just couldn’t keep my hands off of the Choctal tent. Their single-origin vanilla and chocolate ice creams were perfect during the day and all of their flavors tasted different from the others based on the vanilla bean or chocolate from its sourced locale. I can’t wait to try all eight flavors.

So, so, SO good! The Indonesian Vanilla ice cream was definitely my favorite.

The Los Angeles Taste event will always be my favorite in the city. Maybe it’s the sparkle of the back lot or maybe it’s just all of the amazing vendors who participate each year. Regardless, you must check out the Taste again next Labor Day Weekend.

For more information, visit http://events.latimes.com/taste.

See you next year!


Olympic Spa in Koreatown: Where ladies get scrubbed, buffed and puffed

Written by Nadia Ibanez

Warning: This post is not intended for the conservative, demure, modest or perverted.

There are several benefits of being a woman: That whole child birth thing, the ability to get free things with the bat of an eyelash…that’s just the beginning. But one of my favorite things of being of the female gender are women-only day spas. There’s something so exciting about spending a couple hours or the entire day among femininity, beautiful women, plush robes and spa services. This past weekend, I spent the afternoon at the Olympic Spa in Koreatown.

I know what you’re thinking: Why would she go all the way to Koreatown, Los Angeles for a spa day? Not only are beauty services cheaper in these neighborhoods, but it’s the only place you can actually visit an all-natural Korean Day Spa.

These spas aren’t like others and they’re not for the weary. One of the requirements to enter into these spas is public nudity. So if that’s something that skeeves you out, I suggest you take a look at our other beauty and wellness stories.

If you’ve never heard of a Korean Day Spa, here’s the gist. You sign in, are assigned a locker and are required to take a shower before you start any service or enter into any of the public spaces. Most of these spas have a number of cold and hot tubs, relaxation lounges, saunas and steam rooms. You can opt for a Day Pass, giving you all access to the aforementioned locales, or you can splurge on a traditional Korean spa service that will leave you squeaky clean and a bit in awe of the nude experience.

The Himalayan Salt Room at Olympic Spa. Photo courtesy of CBS Local Los Angeles

After spending a few hours baking in the sun at the Taste LA (more about that foodie fest later), I was in desperate need of a place to cool off, unwind and prep for that evening’s event. Let me start the story with this: For $100, I spent four hours getting scrubbed, soaked, buffed and puffed. FOUR HOURS.

I initially had the idea that I’d just go for the Day Pass and relax in the tubs and saunas for a couple hours, but their spa service menu was calling my name. I locked in an appointment and had about two and a half hours to kill before my Milk and Honey Body Smoothie treatment.

After dropping my things off in the locker and putting on my robe, I headed straight to the showers. The idea is that you’re supposed to be pure and clean before entering any of the steam rooms or tubs. It’s actually seen as poor form and bad manners if you don’t rinse off first. And trust me when I say that I desperately needed a rinse down.

If naked women – of every age, ethnicity and shape – make you nervous, this isn’t the place for you. Boobs, butts, vaginas and bushes are everywhere. There’s no getting around it. You’ll see boobs of all sizes, small butts and big butts, 1980’s bushes and well-manicured nether regions. And given that this spa is in fact located in Los Angeles, you’ll likely see some botched boob jobs too.

So if you can’t be naked and accept your body, or be around women who embrace their nudity, turn around and go to another shi-shi spa.

The Jade relaxation lounge has a heated floor, which invites you to take a nap or relax before your service. Photo courtesy of CBS Local Los Angeles.

Olympic Spa has hot tubs, cold tubs, relaxation lounges with jade floors and three different types of saunas all with their own unique offerings. The idea is to go from one tub or sauna to another, alternating between hot and cold, to soften your skin, promote circulation and detoxify. I had my pick of the following:

Warm Mineral Spa for soaking
Cool Waters Pool used to cool down and tighten pores
Jade Steam Room which also emitted the scents ancient herbs through its vents
Hot Mugwort Tea Pool to help boost immune system, detoxify and regulate sleep and menstrual cycles
Dry Red Clay Sauna, which emitted far infrared rays to increase blood circulation, promote better sleep and aid stiff joints
Oxygen Charcoal Sauna, with walls lined with oxygen stones from Korea and a ceiling lined with bichotan charcoal from Japan, the room promotes natural detoxification
Himalayan Salt Sauna, which housed 84 different minerals to aid sinus allergies, relaxation and muscle soreness

After two and a half hours, my number was called by an older Korean woman who was wearing black granny panties and a black sports bra. This is normal attire for Korean spa therapists because they’re constantly splashing warm water on patrons and scrubbing their bodies from head to toe.

I started my Milk and Honey Body Smoothie treatment by lying on a vinyl massage table and getting doused with warm milk. We’re talking milk straight out of the gallon jug from your local grocer. If you’ve never bathed in warm milk, and I’m guessing you haven’t, it’s pretty exhilarating.

Next, I was scrubbed from head to toe and everywhere in between with silk mitts. We’re talking about the knotch behind your knee, behind your ears, up and down your limbs, your belly button, butt crack and your upper thighs. These ladies don’t hold back and they don’t stop at anything less than a smoother-than-a-baby’s-butt softness. I was scrubbed for a second time after the milk bath with a body shampoo that smelled absolutely heavenly.

If you opt for the Akasuri scrub, your spa therapist will use a special solution that will literally scrub all of your dead skin cells off your body and onto the massage table. The treatment can be a bit unsightly so prepare yourself ahead of time.

After a quick rinse off in the nearby shower, I was doused with a blend of jojoba oil and pure clover honey. Needless to say, I wanted to lick myself out of curiosity. She massaged my limbs before flipping me around and rubbing every inch of my achy body. And when you’re on a vinyl-lined table, the flips become much easier and much more comedic. With peppermint oil, she massaged my scalp and applied a pineapple-scented cream to my face before massaging that too.

Hand’s down, my favorite part of the treatment was when she applied freshly grated cucumber to my face. The cold veggies on my warm face were stimulating and invigorating and I could tell my face was happily soaking up the much-needed moisture.

Using towels as props underneath my back, she then proceeded to wash my hair with shampoo and conditioner on the table before toweling me off like how my mom used to when I was a little girl. By the end of the hour and a half service, your body feels like a noodle and all you want to do is take a nap. There’s something so sweet about these ladies. Maybe it’s their gentle tone, or their strong hands…or maybe it’s their silly work “uniforms” that make me want to keep coming back.

If you’re ever in the Los Angeles area and have a few hours to kill, I highly suggest you visit Olympic Spa or any Korean Day Spa around town. Throw your modesty out the window, embrace the beauty around you, and give in to the relaxation. For more information, visit http://www.olympicspala.com.



Los Angeles Times The Taste returns Labor Day Weekend 2014

Taste LA by night

Written by and photos by Nadia Ibanez

In my 20’s, I would have been perfectly content spending Labor Day Weekend at the beach or park grilling up hot dogs and burgers while drinking a few lackluster beers. But now that I have a taste (no pun intended) of all that is possible at Los Angeles Times The Taste, I can’t ever go back to what I thought was ordinary.

Border Grill’s Grilled Halibut Taco from Taste LA.

I had the absolute pleasure of attending The Taste in 2013 at the Paramount Pictures Studios and had a delicious time. The annual, three-day event invites thousands of locals and visitors to the studio’s back lot to devour bites from the most talked about chefs, creative mixologists, wine makers and spirit purveyors from across the city. If you need a break from the calories, inspired conversations by LA Times food staff will be spattered throughout the weekend, ranging in subjects like sourcing ingredients from local farmer’s markets and foraged and found foods.


Want to watch a cooking demo by James Beard award-winning or up-and-coming chefs so you can impress your friends back at home? You can do that, too. Now all you have to do is decide how many of the events you want to go to:

Opening Night
Field to Fork
Dinner with a Twist
Sunday Brunch
Flavors of L.A.

The festivities begin on Friday, August 29 and run through Sunday, August 31. In addition to demos and conversation, each of the five events will include unlimited wine and spirit tastings and amazing food pairings from restaurants that you’ve probably been dying to visit.

For tickets and more information, visit http://events.latimes.com/taste/.

We’ll see you there!

Comic-Con 2014, Hello Kitty Con, and Stalker Con – A How-To Guide to Get Your Geek On

Summer is in full swing, and for hard core pop culture fanatics, that means one thing: the Cons are coming.

That’s right, Comic-Con 2014 is coming up in a few weeks, and the Wander staff is raring to go. Between checking out the main gallery, which will be chock-full of shops, art, and of course, comics, and hitting up all of our favorite panels, there’s always plenty to do at the Con.

As we mentioned last year, you can always enjoy outside events in Downtown San Diego that are affiliated with Comic-Con, so even if you don’t have tickets, you can be a part of the fun.

Let’s be honest, thought. Not everyone is going to fly down to San Diego to a sold out Comic-Con in order to just hang out at a restaurant, seething with envy as you overhear the next table over talk about their favorite exhibits.

For you folks, we have dug up some different, fun, exciting Conventions coming up that you’re bound to have fun at. Remember, these two examples are just a tiny fraction of what conventions are happening this year, so feel free to let us know what conventions you’ll be attending. Maybe we’ll see you there!

1. Hello Kitty Con

Hello Kitty Con is coming!

That’s right, Hello Kitty has her own convention.

Sanrio fangirls and fanboys can shout with glee as their favorite Kitty comes to life, bringing her pals with her to Los Angeles from October 30 to November 2, just in time for her 40th anniversary.

Taking place at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in Little Tokyo, Downtown Los Angeles, Hello Kitty Con will give fans a full lineup of activations including the Hello Kitty Super Supermarket featuring a curated selection of vendors offering convention exclusives, products and experiences; a Hello Kitty retrospective and vintage shop selling rare collectibles from the past; integrated workshops, lectures and panel discussions; a tattoo shop; arcade; art installations; photo opportunities and more.

Attendees will also be treated to sneak peeks into upcoming projects and partnerships and can find limited edition convention-only products and global exclusives at the official Hello Kitty Con 2014 pop-up shop.

As if Hello Kitty lovers need more swag.

The exhibition will also explore fans’ emotional connection to the brand and Hello Kitty’s influence on bridging Japanese and American cultures in the U.S. Christine Yano, author of Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty’s Trek Across the Pacific, and longtime Hello Kitty fan, will curate the retrospective component of the exhibition. Jamie Rivadeneira, founder and owner of pop culture-inspired boutique JapanLA, will curate the art component.

Hello Kitty Con 2014 will coincide with Hello Kitty’s official birthday on November 1st, and will run from October 30th – November 2nd at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. A limited number of tickets are available now for purchase at Sanrio’s website.


2. Walker Stalker Con 2014

On the complete opposite spectrum of fandom fun, zombie and horror fans can enjoy guts and gore at Walker Stalker Con, which will be held in various parts of the country at various dates.

New York, Atlanta and Chicago are just a few of the spots where fans can meet up and share an opportunity to be part of a greater community of zombie lovers.

As every good convention should have, there will be several stars in attendance at the various conventions, with Josh McDermitt, Brighton Sharpino, Howard Sherman, Kyra Schon, Terry Alexander and Lori Cardille making appearances. Even David Morrissey, known for his portrayal of The Walking Dead’s The Governor, will be in attendance at the New York Stalker Con, with Steven Yeun attending the Chicago Con.

It’s not uncommon for fans to dress up like their favorite zombie hunters, nor is it unheard of for hordes of zombies to roam the streets after the convention’s events, giving pause to even the bravest of men.

For more information on where Walker Stalker Cons will be held this year, go to www.walkerstalkercon.com.

So even if you’re only hanging outside of Comic-Con 2014 with throngs of cosplayers, you can have a heckuva time finding other conventions to fit your fancy.