• Firefly: A Celestial Dining Experience in LA

     
    POSTED August 20, 2014
     

“Join us for dinner under the stars,” the invitation had read. It’s the kind of enticement that often turns out to be an exaggeration in Los Angeles, where outdoor dining can mean a few tables wedged into a corner of a parking lot or spilling out into a busy thoroughfare with cars whizzing by so closely, you could almost reach in and adjust their air conditioning. But this time, the setting was truly magical. As soon as I walked from the sexy library-lounge and into the outdoor dining room at Firefly, a longstanding restaurant in Studio City, I was charmed - as were the other dozen or so members of the press, many of whom exclaimed right along with me. With dozens of flickering candles, two fireplaces, a vaulted (and retracted) rooftop and a half-dozen, white-draped cabanas, the sprawling patio had the lively buzz of a neighborhood favorite, if your neighborhood happens to be in the south of France or Morocco.   

We were here to taste the new menu from Executive Chef Paul Shoemaker, who recently joined the restaurant, bringing with him a highly-impressive culinary resume that includes stints at Water Grill, Alain Ducasse, French Laundry, Providence and Bastide, where he earned a Michelin star. Shoemaker’s fare easily lived up to its surroundings, from canapés like compressed watermelon, carbonated sugar and Thai basil, and a lobster “bloody Mary” topped with American caviar to the six-course dinner menu. Every dish was beautifully composed, a highly satisfying mix of textures, flavors and influences, including bone-marrow ravioli, diver scallops served with local corn, green figs, chanterelles and bacon, and a dessert of smoked salt caramel, Baileys ice cream and whiskey foam (a shout out to pastry chef Raymond Morales).

Firefly is very close to the CBS Radford television studios, making it a popular spot for industry gatherings. The night we were there, a couple of dozen people from The Voice had taken over the upper terrace (which seats up to 35). The high-top communal table where we dined accommodates 12. Both options allow a group to have its own separate space but still be a part of the bustling scene. For more intimate get-togethers, you might consider the oasis of one of the cabana tables. So many ways to dine, all truly under the stars!

Who says you can’t have a meeting without some pampering mixed in? Several hot springs resorts in the U.S. Mountain West can accommodate smaller meetings complete with lodging, function space, din- ing and soaking. Some even have on-site spas and other standout features like an ice museum or microbrewery to include on an itinerary.

 

Erase any vision you might have of a dude ranch, especially the “City Slicker” version. For the purposes of this story, let’s use the name ranch resort and picture a big dose of vision and thousands of acres for both herds and people to roam. It’s a fairly different option, but one with similar friendliness and the Western spirit of a dude ranch.

 

To say Wisconsin is having a moment would be an understatement. A statewide renaissance resulting in plenty of new developments, impressive renovations and entrepreneurial ventures has been years in the making and shows no sign of slowing anytime soon.