Hacker tweets Lohan nonsense, SDNN editor commiserates

This story was reported for the San Diego News Network on April 27, 2010.

See original copy of story.

Here’s a perfect example of social media gone wrong.

The father of troubled starlet Lindsay Lohan claims his Twitter account was hacked when his account released the following tweet: “…the truth about my daughter living with HIV for the rest of her life as a result of the decisions she made…”

The hacker (if what her father, Michael Lohan, is saying is true) also released tweets about Lindsay hooking up with music hotshot Tommy Mottola when she was 17.

According to TMZ.com, Michael has already contacted his lawyer (if his account was really hacked).

I can totally feel for Michael (if what he claims is true) as my Twitter account was hacked months ago, too. In fact, I’d be willing to back up Michael’s case.

Anyway, without getting into the politics of the tweet as I have real news to cover, let’s hope the jerk who hacked into the account is found (if his account was, in fact, hacked) and others leave the B-list star alone.

Hoa Quach is the political editor for the San Diego News Network and she just learned Lindsay is no longer in her teens…. like seriously, when did that happen?

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Eight great local charities worth your time this holiday season

This story was reported for San Diego News Network on December 11, 2009.

See original copy of story.

When I was eight, my mother took me to a jewelry store and let me choose out a charm. I chose an 18-karat heart with the Goddess of Compassion in the middle. The Goddess of Compassion was an emblem I was familiar having grown up in a home with Buddhist parents and a mother who is the very definition of the word kind. The charm – which I still wear – and my mother’s presence remind me compassion is one of the most important gifts each person can offer another human being.

We may be in a recession with no end in sight, but let’s take a tip from my sweet, Chinese mommy: there are a number of charities around town that don’t just solely need cash. Rather, some need compassionate people and helping hands. With budget cuts hitting state and local agencies hard, giving back is so hot right now — it’s hotter than new Padres GM Jed Hoyer.

Here are just eight great San Diego charities to consider helping this holiday season. I know there are hundreds more local nonprofits seeking assistance. Throw a little compassion into our comments section by telling us what they are with links to more information.

EMBRACE: Help the homeless this holiday season with the San Diego nonprofit EMBRACE.

EMBRACE was created by Sean Sheppard after he spent years walking the streets of San Diego passing out food. He wanted to get college students and young locals involved too. Most recently, Sheppard and other community leaders hosted “EMBRACE the Streets,” where volunteers passed out clothes, food and blankets to homeless people in the East Village.

The organization can always use volunteers at its weekly dinners. Twice a week, EMBRACE hosts nearly 200 people for full meals. Sheppard hopes one day EMBRACE will be able to provide dinners to more San Diegans every single day.

With more than 4,000 San Diegans on the streets and more people losing their jobs every day, it just may be the perfect time to EMBRACE the homeless.

San Diego Youth Services: Since 1970, San Diego Youth Services has “stabilized the lives of over 500,000 homeless, abused and at-risk youth” in the region. Now, it provides services to more than 9,000 young people and their families via 15 locations throughout the county.

From adoption services to foster care to independent living, SDYS lives up to its mission “building futures for at-risk youth.” The organization happily welcomes volunteers to assist with adoption services, mentor children, work at teen centers or help teach independent living skills.

If you have the time this holiday season, share good will with young San Diegans who need it.

Stepping Stone of San Diego: Go the extra mile this season by volunteering with Stepping Stone of San Diego.

Stepping Stone of San Diego is an agency that focuses on alcohol and drug recovery in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Since 1976, the organization has developed nine programs catered to those looking to revitalize themselves. Its programs include residential facilities, outpatient treatment services, sober living assistance and harm reduction, among others.

At the moment, Stepping Stone of San Diego has several volunteer positions available to meet the organization’s needs. Check out its Web site to find out how you can make a difference in the life of someone who wants to change.

Local schools: Join your neighborhood public school as a volunteer to help combat California’s unprecedented budget crisis.

California schools have seen a major cut this budget cycle because of the state’s financial crisis and it’s only expected to get worst. This year alone, the state government cut $6 billion to 10,000 public schools and the San Diego Unified School District is facing a deficit of about $100 million. This means older teachers are being forced into retirement and others are forced into furloughs.

But volunteers are welcomed. At the moment, SDUSD has about 28,000 volunteers but when the next budget cycle hits, it’ll certainly need more. Volunteers either tutor students, offer classroom assistance to teachers or organize clubs, among other tasks.

All schools have a site volunteer – all you have to do is drop by and let them know you’re there to help.

Senior Community Centers: Did you know the average monthly income for a senior citizen in San Diego is $800? That’s a major concern, considering people who meet federal poverty level guidelines make about $2,000 each month.

Senior Community Centers in San Diego is working to help the senior citizens struggling to get through the day.

SCC offers several services to the county’s elderly, including nutrition and health education programs, physical and mental health care services and activities and socialization opportunities. But the organization does more than that. It also works to ease “the isolation” the seniors live in.

Take some time off from your holiday shopping this year to serve meals, organize a social activity or participate in the adopt-a-senior program. Check out the organization, for more info.

San Diego Humane Society: SDNN Health Editor Jennifer Reed reported on some distressing news Monday – neglected animals throughout our region are lacking health care.

But that’s not all — the San Diego Animal Welfare Coalition took in 48,872 pets last fiscal year with about 3,273 at the San Diego Humane Society.

Show some affection to our furry friends by volunteering for the Humane Society, which provides more than 15 programs. After just one four-hour training per month, you work with spunky dogs in the canine programs or educate San Diegans about the sweet animals at our local schools, or even find a new friend by providing a temporary home to an abandoned animal.

Learn more on the Humane Society’s Web site.

Invisible Children: Thousands of miles away, the longest war in Africa’s history is being played out, leaving thousands of children homeless, or forced to fight.

Their story doesn’t end there, though. A team of San Diegans formed Invisible Children, a project that encourages the utilization of new media to educate the world on the war in an effort to the end the war.

The organization offers several ways for San Diegans to make monetary donations but it also offers tips on what you can do, without cash, to end violence in our world and ensure children are no longer invisible.

There are simple things like showing the organization’s documentaries in your home or telling the stories to friends and family or even writing a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to take a stand and call for an end to the violence.

More ideas are available on Invisible Children’s Web site.

AJA Project: San Diego is one of 15 resettlement cities in the nation for refugees, bringing in thousands of refugees. From 1980 to 2004 alone, 33,976 refugees settled in California.

Numerous organizations throughout the county are doing their part by helping our new residents settle into America’s Finest City. But one project, the AJA Project, is focusing on our city’s young refugees.

AJA, which is an acronym for “supporting self-sufficiency,” in Spanish, “autosuficiencia juntada con apoyo,” has three programs focused on kids. The programs offer multimedia and vocational education guidance to the children and allow them to utilize creativity.

AJA has several volunteer opportunities available from creative designer work to grant administration work. Check the group out while extending welcomes to our new residents.

Hoa Quach is the political editor for the San Diego News Network and it took a lot of energy for her not to mention Rolling Readers USA, a non-profit literacy organization she serves as a board member for. OK, that didn’t work.

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San Diegans see flashbacks with Boyz II Men concert

This story was reported for San Diego News Network on November 5, 2009.

See original copy of story.

Disclaimer: I sang and danced at the concert. I had to. It was Boyz II Men!

One member short? No problem.

Swine flu? No way, no matter what CNN says.

Flu? Well, as the wise theater folks say, the show must go on.

Nothing fazes these Men.

It was a typical Wednesday afternoon until SDNN’s music editor Chris Nixon mentioned Boyz II Men were in town.

A couple hours, e-mails, phone calls, text messages later – I got media passes to the sold out concert. A couple hours after that I found myself, unabashedly, attempting to catch a rose (I don’t even like roses) from one of the Men during one of its passion-filled ballads.

That’s right: I spent my Wednesday night singing my heart out/along to sappy, romantic, tear-jerking love songs with Boyz II Men.

It wasn’t easy to get there though, as I already had two events to attend that night. I had to make an appearance at a local business mixer, support a friend’s art benefit for COMPASS and then haul ass to the House of Blues. And as my friend/fellow unembarrassed Men fan, and I drove to the HOB, I secretly contemplated what type of crowd would show up.

Would it be tons of 30-something women donning attire from the hey-days like the NKOTB concert I attended?

Or would I see a room full of late-30 to early-40 something feminists like at the Bangles concert?

Neither. I would end up in a room full of 20- to 30-something women and men, who clearly joyfully relived their graceless adolescence the entire duration of the hour long concert, many of whom had undoubtedly left the offices as they, like me, were still wearing biz attire. I also overheard a man talk about how much work he had to do for his one-year-old son’s birthday party and another man would mention that he had “On Bended Knee” on a mixed tape – both of whom sang along to the classics.

Needless to say, the experience of Boyz II Men, live in concert 20 years after its first CD, was one in a million.

The three remaining men in the group — Nathan Morris, Shawn Stockman and Wanya Morris proved they still had IT. The fourth, Michael McCary — a.k.a. the one with the deep, talking voice (see this video) — unfortunately left the group six years ago, which is a shame, because a part of me really wanted to hear him say “Baby. I’m sorry. Please, forgive me for all the wrong I’ve done. Please, come back home, girl.”

The Men still have the swagger, class and the old school Motown appeal that forces any sane woman to raise her expectations of the opposite sex. They still know how to rock the stage as they smoothly glide from end to end and as they relinquish their charming, soulful vocals in matching suits and dark shades. It was 1994 all over again!

And they can still draw a crowd as the Blues venue was more packed than I had ever seen it and as the clock struck nine, and there was still no sight of the group. The crowd began chanting relentlessly, “Boyz II Men.” That’s right, those early-30-something year old men, I spoke of before, demanded the three men to step out on stage, too.

Minutes later, the beats of “Motownphilly,” filled the subversive scene and the next hour of flashbacks seem to last only minutes.

The ever so classic “Motownphilly,” forced the crowd to sing along and dance in ways we haven’t seen since the early ‘90s. (Although, I believe SDNN sports editor Jason Owens still dances that way).

The rest of the night was filled with more sing-along-type songs for deep rooted B II M fans. Tunes like “On Bended Knee,” “Four Seasons of Loneliness,” “Doin’ Just Fine,” and “Water Runs Dry,” – all had concert-goers drown out the sounds of the Men during the chorus. But the three obviously fully enjoyed it as they encouraged attendees to sing along and thank them for coming at least a dozen times.

To top it off, when the Men sang the abiding “I’ll Make Love to You” long stem red roses were thrown out to women in the crowd while couples gave each other kisses.

A little more interaction was seen with the audience when Stockman asked fans (I think it’s safe to say everyone at the Blues’ venue, all of whom dropped at least $40 for a ticket, are fans) to call their “mamas,” to say “I love you and this next song that Boyz II Men is about to sing is dedicated to you.”

Yes. The Men sang the heartfelt and sugary, “A Song for Mama,” as some fans held up their phones with moms on the other ends.

Songs were complete with sleek, minor dance moves (Hey, they’re in their late 30s), and the same passion that we saw when we were in our tweens and teens.

The only small downer was the amount of covers the Men performed – at least 40 percent of the songs were covers, which although the Men sang beautifully, didn’t resonate with some fans who began talking during those moments.

Covers included Edwin Starr’s “War, What is it Good for?” (We were asked to wave peace signs in the air during this song) and Pink Floyd’s “Money.” The time could have been better completed with other hit songs from the Men like, “Pass You By” or “I Will Get There.”

Not coincidentally, Boyz II Men’s new album titled “Love,” is a series of covers of popular love songs, by artists as diverse as Bonnie Raitt, to Lonestar, to Journey, to Chicago. The new album, produced by American Idol’s Randy Jackson, drops on Nov. 24.

The show was completed with the most appropriate Men jam – “End of the Road,” with fans singing the chorus more than three times at the end.

Despite the mass number of covers and the missing bass voice of McCrary, Stockman and both Morrises, clearly attested their love for music and the talent they had years ago during their peak.

So even if you’re not listening to AOL’s ‘90s R&B station, Boyz II Men songs still ring true and still demonstrate themselves to be timeless.

The water still runs dry sometimes, there is an end of the road and the Men still bring that East Coast swing.

Hoa Quach is the political editor for the San Diego News Network and she wants her mama to know she loves her – that loving her is like food to Hoa’s soul.

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SD Asian Film Fest’s ‘All About Dad’ hits home

This story was reported for San Diego News Network on October 17, 2009.

See original copy of story.

Being an Asian American and a member of the Asian American Journalists Association, an organization with close ties to the San Diego Asian Film Foundation, I’ve been excited about this year’s San Diego Asian Film Festival.

But I wanted to write more than a movie review. I wanted something that intrigued me. I went to the SDAFF Web site and scrolled through the list of films. Being Vietnamese and Chinese, I was prone to movies based on my nationality.

I eventually stumbled upon “All About Dad,” written and directed by Mark Tran.

Ha! “Tran.” You can’t get more Vietnamese than that.

I then proceeded to read the synopsis: “The main character, Ty, is based loosely upon Tran himself — a biology major about to give up his studies to pursue filmmaking (a.k.a. the worst thing a Vietnamese father could ever hear from a son).”

Uh…God, are you talking to me?

“Newcomer Chi Pham steals the show as the patriarch of the Do family, the head figure who sees hard work, Catholicism, higher education, and loyalty to family as the only means to achieve happiness and success in life.”

Ohmygoodness, it’s like he’s talking to me.

Other than coming from a family that’s Buddhist rather than Catholic, the synopsis summed up my family. And Ty sounded like me except that I told my strict Vietnamese-Chinese parents that I wanted to be a writer.

Yah, I had it hard but my parents had it much, much harder. At the same time though, I hate falling into the whole stereotype about strict Asian families. It’s enough that I have a very Vietnamese name (“Hoa” is like “Mary” in Vietnam) and I get questions like “How do you use chopsticks?” at least once a month (OK, exaggeration).

Personal feelings aside, though, I watched the film.

In Tran’s film, a family of six is headed by a stern and aggressive father, who’s the focal point. Throughout the film, audience members are given a look into a bicultural lifestyle with a father who struggles to understand an American lifestyle while tying in his Vietnam War experiences. At the same time, and without his knowledge, his children struggle to please him. His wife remains the middleman as she exerts great effort into keeping her family together and communication clear.

To top it off, Tran writes the film in English and Vietnamese — with parents speaking in Vietnamese and the children responding in English. Tran even throws in his own “war clip” with his father in his younger years in the war.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ssj_GoK-sA[/youtube]

It was interesting to say the least — and to be honest, I was taken aback by the war clip, probably because it’s still such a sensitive issue with my father and most Vietnamese refugees.

But what captivated me the most was the mother played by Yen Ly (coincidentally, I have a friend with the same name). Ly plays a soft-spoken, sensitive, loving mother and wife who attempts to understand her domineering husband and apprehensive children. In one scene, she asks her eldest daughter, “What would you like to tell your father?” She thereby shares a soothing moment with her daughter — a moment that reminds me of my relationship with my own mother, who faced the same challenges in my own family of six.

After watching the film, I was fortunate enough to share my experience with the director.

“I definitely think this [applies] to a huge chunk of the Asian American population,” Tran said. “I really don’t know why. It’s a phenomenon — especially with Vietnamese families.

“It’s the first generation coming over to the U.S. from Vietnam, escaping war, poverty and looking for a richer life – and they believe that one obtains a richer life by good old hard work,” he added. “Most don’t understand that with American culture, you’re much more independent – you can be a writer, a filmmaker, whatever you want. You can follow your dreams.”

He then told me about the time he told his father that he wanted to be a filmmaker.

“I was really scared,” he said, laughing. “I was 18, took a semester in college and flunked all my courses. But they were really supportive. He himself writes poetry — so he just understood.

“With this film and with all my films, I just want [audience members] to feel something, whether it’s sadness or laughter or they just have a really good time watching it. I want them to leave with an emotional resonance,” Tran explained. .

But with my grand desire to ensure that I never fall into such stereotypes, I asked Tran whether his film simply contributes to the Asian stereotype of a hardworking family that holds a strong belief that artistic jobs are unacceptable.

“I’ve heard that comment before,” he responded. ” If it is stereotypical, it’s still true for my family and for the majority of Asians I know.”

After the interview, I thought about Tran’s comment — that he guesses his family is just stereotypical.

See, even though the film reminded me of my own family, when it comes to my life and my life alone, I choose to live in a world where I eradicate any stereotype. I strive to see each person as he or she is and his or her culture as merely “accents,” without judgment and with a mind that’s ready to be taught.

But Tran is right – it’s really a “phenomenon,” a “culture” that has simply matured with Asian American families. Of course, not all Asian American families are part of this “phenomenon.” My family, like Tran’s, just happens to be part of it.

But Tran’s film means more than that. And with the initial intention of the Asian Film Festival (and I believe this goes for all film festivals, including the Latino Film Festival or the Women’s Film Festival), we learn that it really isn’t about stereotypes .

It’s about understanding who you are.

Event info: “All About Dad” plays at SDAFF on Saturday, Oct. 17, at 2 p.m., with writer/director Mark Tran and actor Chi Phan in attendance, and Saturday, Oct. 24, at 12:45 p.m. Screenings are held at the UltraStar Mission Valley at Hazard Center. For more information, visit the SDAFF Web site at www.sdaff.org

Hoa Quach is the SDNN political editor. She is also president of the Asian American Journalists Association in San Diego whose members participate in SDAFF festivities.

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SDNN dishes on Restaurant Week in words and pictures

This story was reported for San Diego News Network on September 15, 2009.

See original copy of story.

These days dining out at a restaurant with tablecloths and good service seems like a luxury for many. That’s why San Diego Restaurant Week – which offers the chance to have a three-course dinner for $20, $30 or $40 – is such a fine time to let someone else do the cooking.

But with more than 150 restaurants to choose from, the hardest part may be deciding which restaurant to visit first. To help make your choice easier, SDNN Food Editor Maria C. Hunt and staff editors Hoa Quach, Eric Yates and Joseph Peña headed out to four hot tables and reported back on what they experienced on the first nights of Restaurant Week.

Market Restaurant + Bar
by Maria C. Hunt

It’s not such a secret, but some chefs do a watered down and less expensive version of their regular menu for restaurant Week. But Carl Schroeder of Market Restaurant + Bar isn’t one of them. The $40 restaurant week menu we tasted on Monday night was just as playful, creative and satisfying as any meal you might have at this restaurant that specializes in creative and seasonal California fare.

We settled into a table in the restaurant done in warm tones of chocolate, cinnamon, and paprika with modern drum lights overhead and tried to choose among the tempting choices for the three-course menu. The evening started with an amuse bouche – a surprise morsel from the chef to tantalize your palate. It was an oversized housemade potato chip sprinkled with seasonings that made it the classiest barbecue potato chip ever. Topped with smoked salmon, creme fraiche and chives, it was a combination of rich flavors that hinted at the fun in store. The combination was even more sublime with the prosecco – a sparkling wine from the Veneto in Italy, that our attentive and professional waiter Roger selected for us.

Schroeder likes dreaming up inventive things to put in a soup bowl, and the corn soup we tried was no exception. The pale yellow soup was naturally sweet and slightly frothy, studded with kernels of corn and roasted red peppers. In an homage to the versatility of corn, the soup was paired with a taco in a delicately crunchy corn shell stuffed with tender shredded pork and guacamole. I could eat a taco like this every day. The other irresistible starter was the warm and creamy blue cheese souffle- one of Schroeder’s signatures. The salad on the side changes according to the season; now it’s Waldorf-inspired mix of ref grapes. crisp apple, candied walnuts and tender Bibb lettuce.

Perhaps the heartiest entree was the Wienerschnitzel, two thin pork cutlets covered in crispy breading and drizzled with a choron sauce – a tomato hollandaise – along with fresh cherry tomatoes and broccolini. Short ribs were melt-in-your mouth tender, succulent morsels of beef napped in a richly burnished Cabernet wine sauce and paired with cippoline onions roasted to intense sweetness. The salmon was excellent too, served in a buttery Meyer lemon sauce and accompanied by fat tortellini stuffed with corn, shrimp and crab.

After a pause, it was time for dessert. Chocolate lovers should dive in an order the Market Bar, an intensely fudgy terrine that combines milk and bitter sweet chocolate, peanut crunch and a swoosh of bananas in caramel. Our favorites though were the seductive lemon pudding cake, a moist pouf of cake capped in a cloud of lemon curd that was balanced by a huckleberry sauce and a strawberries and cream semifreddo that offered a fleeting taste of summer.

Market is usually busy – the complimentary valet parking lot thick with Benzes, Bentleys and other conveyances of the monied clientele – and Restaurant Week is no exception. There are just a few reservations left at Market for Restaurant Week ending Sept. 18; fortunately, the restaurant will be offering the same $40 menu for an additional week.

El Vitral
by Eric Yates

On May 1, El Vitral opened downtown with little fanfare. As a sucker for quality Mexican food, I was thinking I was going to be a “fan” of their “fare.”
The upscale Mexican eatery, which sits behind the “Park at the Park” section of Petco Park, is on the roster of establishments for San Diego’s annual “San Diego Restaurant Week,” Sept. 13-18. But for my money, El Vitral is only very good, but not great.

The appetizer options for the SDRW pre-fixe menu included flautas de pollo, quesadillas, and ceviche de mahi mahi. I had the flautas and came away unimpressed. For starters, a corn tortilla was used, essentially excluding them from being “flautas,” which are made with flour tortillas. I assume a restaurant trying to put forth a certain image has a hard time putting “taquitos” on the menu though. The fresh cotija cheese was flavorful, but aside from the homemade chipotle aioli, there was little to separate these rolled chicken tacos from anything you’d find at your neighborhood taco shop.

The entrees offered include mole poblano, ravioles de nogada, and enchiladas de pato (duck). The enchiladas were definitely delicious. The duck is perfectly tender, after being slow-braised for six to eight hours in fresh apricot and plum juice. It creates a sweet contrast for the enchiladas, which are covered in a guajillo chile and cotija sauce, the perfect salty complement for the succulent duck meat. The highlight of the meal by far. For connoisseurs of fine tequila, El Vitral has more than 250 options, the majority of which are artisan crafts, with very few major label brands.

Service started off on a negative note. Upon arrival, there was no hostess present as my party and another larger party were waiting for nearly five minutes, crammed into the doorway.

But Cory, one of the lead servers, could not have been more accommodating. He made thoughtful and frank suggestions about the food, was very knowledgeable about ingredients and cooking processes, and had great command of the menu. You could tell immediately that he takes a lot of pride in his restaurant.

El Vitral was relatively empty, even for a Sunday night. The decor was very contemporary with lots of metal and aluminum design and architecture, but also integrating exposed brick, giving it a comfortable ambience. The highlight is undoubtedly the restaurants back patio, which sits directly behind Park at the Park. During the game, diners have a view of the right field and first-baseline stands, and can hear all of the natural ballpark action. During the off-season, it no doubt loses its appeal. The interior is beautifully decorated with various colored stained-glass windows, which appropriately is what “el vitral” means.

For more information on making reservations for Restaurant Week, call (619) 236-9420 or visit www.opentable.com and search San Diego and “El Vitral.”

Delicias Restaurant
by Hoa Quach

It doesn’t have a swanky décor by a New York designer – in fact, its interior reminds you of a restaurant you’d see in 80s sitcom Golden Girls. It isn’t easily accessible either – you have to drive miles off Interstate 5, through hills and windy roads.

Is Delicias worth the trip though?

From a vegetarian stand-point, I’d say so. In the heart of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. lies an inimitable dinning experience complete with fresh organic veggies and meats from free-range animals. To top it off, the setting is cozy enough that it makes you want to sit with friends over glasses of wine for hours . The employees welcome your patronage too, as they take their time to serve you and explain to you what each ingredient on your plate is – a service you couldn’t find at a bustling restaurant in the Gaslamp.

One of two spots that advertised their vegetarian offerings for San Diego Restaurant Week, – it was effortless to choose Delicias. Executive chef Michael Knowles offers veggies-only-eaters an interesting mix for the first course. Simply named, Chino Farms Chopped Salad (after the farm three miles away where Delicias picks up its beautiful produce) – the plate is full of about 10 different vegetables including zucchini, carrots, kidney beans and perhaps, a little too much parmigiano reggiano.

But if I had to eat the first course before I could have the second, it was worth it. Added to the Delicias’ menu just two months ago – The Vegetable Garden was delectable, to say the least. A savory tart neatly plated with heirloom tomatoes, eggplants, squash, caramelized onions, herb puree and heavy goat cheese. Typically, I wouldn’t prefer goat cheese but Knowles created such a perfect combination, that I’d spend an extra 30 minutes on the Stairmaster for another.

The desserts were admirable and comparable to those of Extraordinary Desserts. They included a chocolate baby cake, dulce de leche brownie and vanilla bean crème brûlée. We were also privileged enough to try the summer berries’ cobbler on the regular menu, which my dining companion loved.

For carnivores – my dining companion thought the hand-cut prime beef tartare was mediocre but the corn chowder was tasty. As a second course, the pork wiener schnitzel was out of the ordinary. A pork cutlet breaded in panko crumbse, heavily breaded was topped with mustard sauce, and struck us as unique.

Gregory Roller contributed to this report.

Suite & Tender
by Joseph Peña

Suite & Tender’s Restaurant Week menu doesn’t showcase the restaurant’s best work, but it amply whets the appetites of diners and makes them anxious to return. In short, the meal – albeit scant in portion – is a success. Among the specialty cocktails poured tableside, the (G)integrity and the Passion win big – they’re crafty, unpretentious and delicious.

From its Restaurant Week starters menu, the Kobe Beef Carpaccio and the Vine Ripened Tomatoes and Fresh Mozzarella are recommended; the Maple Syrup Glazed Bacon was cooked well, but a bit fatty, and a touch too sweet – delicious, but nothing stunning.

From its entrée list, my dining companions and I had no complaints – aside from craving larger portions. The Alaskan King Crab – paired with Veal Tenderloin- is rich, buttery, and perfectly prepared as was the accompanying veal. The Lobster and Braised Short Rib duo, complemented by a garlic potato puree and buttered corn, was incredible. We passed the third option: Diver Scallop and Braised Pork Belly. Dessert won rave reviews. The S&T Cheesecake won the highest praise, and the Warm Chocolate Truffle Cake was in a close second place. The Kiwi sorbet accompanying the cheesecake provided a tart counterpart to the rich dessert. The total package – food, cocktails, service and atmosphere – wins.

Our attentive, informative server delivered speedy, efficient service – with one little hiccup early in the evening, attributed more to a miscommunication than to his accommodating nature. Kind and clever, our server never hovered, but was on hand when needed. Tableside cocktail service is anticlimactic and failed to deliver the intended “wow” factor; as did the select-your-own steak knife process. Overall – if a bit pretentious and far-reaching – the service is stellar and first-class.

The luxury hotel that houses Suite & Tender – the Se – is stunning. The restaurant is no exception. The heavily textured, moody space is well lit and inviting, spacious and simultaneously intimate. There is a sense of exclusivity, but it isn’t fostered by the friendly, accommodating front of the house staff, whose uniforms – unfortunately – err the side of being distasteful, and detract from their bubbly, welcoming demeanor.The drawback: the restaurant’s windows overlook a stark white parking garage and a Hollywood Tans storefront, a contrast to the dark, sexy space. Of course, the unisex restroom generates a good deal of the buzz and lively dinner conversation. It’s a must see for guests.

Make your Restaurant Week reservation for Suite & Tender here.

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