These have been a busy couple of weeks for me. Delightfully so! I have been lucky enough to enjoy overnight stays at four terrific properties, all of which should be on the list of anyone planning meetings in Southern California. My short forays included Surf & Sand Resort, Laguna Beach, W Hollywood HotelIsland Hotel Newport Beach and The Resort at Pelican Beach.

You’ll be hearing more about these outstanding hotels in future issues of the magazine. For now, I just wanted to share a few of the extraordinary amenities I enjoyed at each.
 

  • The Poolside Bloody Mary Bar and the do-it-your-way Pancake Bar on the 15FiftyFive patio at Surf & Sand Resort was a wonderful way to begin a Sunday. Fortunately, there’s an experienced bartender to mix your cocktail if you make it, let’s say, a tad too spicy on your own. The hotel has a relaxed, though luxurious, beachside vibe that makes it a huge attraction for meeting groups as well as locals.
  • Chocolate "caviar" was a witty and tasty in-room amenity from the W’s "Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous" menu. A sweet interpretation of the traditional presentation of caviar, it included caviar beads made out of chocolate, pound cake triangles in place of toast points and whipped cream subbing for crème fraiche, along with a perfectly chilled bottle of Prosecco.
  • The tour of the pastry kitchen at Island Hotel included bites of just-baked macarons, lollipop cakes, mini cupcakes and the most delicious almond confection I’ve ever tasted. Along with several other meetings editors, I was presented with a personalized apron, which just might inspire me to try my own hand at baking.
     
  • I could easily rave about the strawberry soufflé with crème anglaise that Chef Derek Brooks prepared for us at the Pelican Grill or, later that day, the pleasures of enjoying pappardelle that’s housemade in the temperature-controlled pasta room at Pelican Hills’s Northern Italian restaurant Andrea. But I recognize that there’s more to life than food. So, I’ll mention instead that the Amber Gold Signature Massage that I enjoyed at the resort’s gorgeous spa (voted #1 spa in California by Conde Nast Traveler ) was an absolutely dreamy antidote to the minor fender bender I’d suffered while driving down to Newport Beach on the 405.

What wonderful places have you visited lately?

Shelley Levitt
Editor
California Meetings + Events

Sometimes you just need to get away from conference rooms, computer screens and the daily grind to connect with co-workers, vendors or business associates. Why not take care of business at an early happy hour, enjoying bargain drinks and snacks while you recharge? Here are seven happy hour spots that start early. Consider each a virtual office—at least for the afternoon.

ASHLAND HILL
Daily from 3-6 p.m.

 

When Sushi Roku opened its first location in Los Angeles in 1997, it brought fun, irreverence and inventiveness to what had been a pretty staid type of cuisine. Its baked crab hand rolls and tuna jalapeno rolls were instant hits, as were its sushi-friendly martinis. That location recently shuttered but the Innovative Dining Group has opened a flagship ROKU on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, taking over the site of what was once RivaBella, a fine-dining Italian restaurant.

 

I wanted to start planning a party as soon as I walked into Pizza Romana in Hollywood and was shown to their “wine cellar,” one of their two private rooms. Right off the main dining area, which is dominated by wood-burning pizza ovens, the wine room has two long dark-wood tables, each of which seats ten. All along the walls are shelves that hold their carefully curated selection of Italian wines and giant cans of Luxardo “original” maraschino cherries, the imported-from-Italy cocktail staple.