Via Veneto: Rustic Swanky Italian Food in Santa Monica

I can't find my passport. I just had it because whenever I need a laugh I take it out and look at my photo. I bet that goofy picture is pinned up on a dozen foreign Embassy walls of shame.

I only need it because I'm craving Italian food and thought of making a mad dash for Italy.

No worries. When not in Rome, I walk to Santa Monica's Via Veneto.

Nawab of India: Curry With My Grandfather

My grandfather grew okra for me. He tended the bushes carefully, harvesting and freezing it so he'd have some when I came to Texas to visit. I'd walk out to the back porch, move the cases of Coke bottles off the deep freeze onto the painted cement floor. Lifting open the freezer, I'd marvel at the bags of frozen okra closed with a twist tie. I'd realize I didn't go home enough.

I live in Santa Monica now and still miss my grandfather; but I can always eat okra at my favorite Indian restaurant, Nawab of India.

NYC Mandarin Oriental's Asiate: Sensational Lunch


Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper, advised nutritionist Adelle Davis. I ascribe to any theory that supports my illusion of grandeur.

So I had a royal lunch at Asiate in the palatial Mandarin Oriental in New York City with Mary Ann Williamson. She puts the amorous in glamorous.

We rise in the elevator as if in a champagne bottle. We pop out onto the 35th floor and float into the dining room to drink up a bubbly view of sparkling Central Park.

Gracias Madre: Thank You for Good Vegan Food


I love hearing anyone's personal stories about their connection to food. Although I'm not a vegan, I played with some on TV. I traveled around the world interviewing over 100 of those nuts for a project. After listening to them, I was never in the mood for meat. The rest of the crew and I always ate vegan.

My main beef with most vegan restaurants is the lack of flavor. However, Gracias Madre in West Hollywood is exceptional. Their sunny patio is a free source of Vitamin D. The whole restaurant is like a gorgeous carrot dangling in front of you.

Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac: Welcome to Love, Bienvenue a L'Amour

My brother Brad White painted this portent of our grandmother
It's a hot day in 1931. My dandy grandfather drives his Ford down a dirt road near Linden, Texas. A young girl in a cotton dress walks barefoot. He yanks the brake. The girl turns. Her blue eyes clear the swirling dust. She's stunning.

Over eight decades, my grandmother's beauty continues to develop. It's legendary. I call her Nanny. Still do, as she's always with me.

The Fairmont Hotel in Quebec City is my gorgeous grandmother.

Michael's on Naples & Chianina: How to Throw A Block Party

Two loving grandmothers often vie for our attention. A promoter can make a cruel million by tossing Bubbes in a boxing ring to battle it out. In this corner, sponsored by Jean Nate, weighing in at 101 pounds.... 

I'm using Chef David Coleman to allegorically stir the pot of that duel. He nurtures two families, or eateries, steps away from each other in Long Beach, California.  First, there' s Italian Michael's on Naples. This is your exotic grandmother -- the one that smoked and took a lover that summer in Paris. A block away lives steakhouse Chianina, your pioneer granny that drove a wagon out West and struck oil. Maybe killed a lover along the way. 

Chef Coleman whisks between both joints with the agility of a new-hipped octogenarian. 

Renaissance Long Beach: The Great Escape

A weekend away can be refreshing. A facelift for the spirit.

I peer between the unending lines of cars dragging down the 405 freeway. I glance in my rear view mirror and see similar lines dug into my face. Reflections cause pause, then panic. I'm resigned to traffic, but not to the personal effects of stress from living in Los Angeles: The Big Ego.

I jump at the chance to sprint to Long Beach. I have friends there I rarely see because in my mind that tiny change in area code stretches to a time zone difference. Crazy; it's only half an hour away. Today, I need it to be a world away.