Tuesday, October 19, 2010

#138: iFly Hollywood

My favorite dreams are the ones in which I am flying, so when I saw that Groupon was having a sale on iFly tickets, I jumped on the deal. $35 for two 1-minute flights, a DVD and free valet parking is a small price to pay to recreate my Peter Pan flying dreams. (btw, the package usually costs around $85. Yay Groupon!)

iFly is a vertical wind tunnel located on Universal Studios City Walk next door to the Hard Rock Cafe. Imagine a towering clear tunnel that blasts winds upward in a vertical column that you can float on. It's an unforgettable experience that reminds me of Willy Wonka's fizzy lifty drink chamber minus the scary fan up top.

We got there about 30 minutes before our flight time and were shown a brief video that taught us proper body positioning and hand signs that our instructor used to communicate with us in the tunnel (it's loud in there, so talking is useless). Then our class of 12 was taken to the suiting chamber where we were given zip up body suits, ear plugs, safety glasses and helmets. In our group there was a kid who looked like he was 4 and a gentleman who looked like he was in his 60's. Apparently, anyone over the age of 3 can iFly!

The tunnel was loud and the wind was strong enough to make our cheeks wobble. Even when we were waiting our turn outside the tunnel, we could feel the wind blasting our face. Once we got inside, our instructor wrestled to position us. Balancing on the wind is harder than you think! Our second time in the tunnel, our instructor grabbed onto us and we went really high in the tunnel and did all sorts of tricks.

I loved my iFly experience and would definitely do it again if there's another discount. (Btw, this would be a great place to have a birthday party!) Equally fun was watching the DVD of our flight when we got home. The cheesy music and seeing ourselves looking incredibly clumsy in mid air was enough to make Brad and I laugh so hard we were crying. The first two flights are awesomely terrible, and the last two are better. Toward the end, you can see the instructor taking us for a ride! Check it out below.

Have you experienced iFly? What did you think of it? Leave me a comment below!

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

#137: Dine "Top Chef" Style

L.A. is home to a fair share of Top Chef contestants. Betty Fraser runs Grub in Hollywood (read my review on it here), Ilan Hall recently opened The Gorbals in Downtown, Stefan Richter is at L.A. Farm and Stefan's on Montana, and Fabio Viviani runs Firenze Osteria in Toluca Lake. Past winner Michael Voltaggio used to be head chef at The Dining Room in Pasadena, but left recently to pursue his own project.

One of the most memorable Top Chef contestants is Marcel Vigneron. I affectionately refer to him as "Wolverine" due to his awesomely sculpted hair. Known for his creative molecular gastronomy inspired cuisine, he worked at The Bazaar in Beverly Hills before leaving to do his own projects. He occasionally pops up here and there, and when I saw that he was doing a three day stint at Test Kitchen in West L.A., I immediately booked it.

Test Kitchen is a unique restaurant. Chefs take over the restaurant for two or three days and come up with a prix fixed menu that features innovative dishes that they might not normally be able to create in another restaurant. The cuisine is frequently bold and daring. Sometimes you will get a few duds, but it's all in the name of experimentation.

Here's what we were served by Marcel this past weekend... Six course menu, $55 per person.

Kombu Cured Hamachi: Crispy Rice, Pineapple, Avocado

The pineapple is the yellow rectangle underneath the hamachi. It is thinly sliced and topped with seaweed, toasted rice, jalapeno, avocado dollops and foam.

Scallobut: Flavors of puttanesca, artichoke

A scallop and a halibut cheek sit next to a deconstructed puttanesca with anchovy, olive powder, roasted cipollini onion, tomato and toast. Parsley and garlic dollops frame the composition.

Wagyu Beef Tongue & Fried Egg: radish, beet, arugala, beans

Break open the fried egg and you'll find a perfectly runny yolk dripping out. Three types of beets, arugula, radish and beans adorn the Wagyu tongue.

Vadouvan Lamb Chop: Cauliflower, Amaranth, Mint

In the background is a cauliflower puree that is just saturated with butter. The lamb sits on top of an almond, pomegranate, feta and mint blend. It is topped with more foam.

Ricotta Fritter: Baby peach panna cotta, agave

The green thing on top of the panna cotta is a Japanese baby peach. It was just about the most delicious thing I have ever eaten. The panna cotta was brilliant.

Macadamia "Sponge Cake": textures of strawberry

The sponge cake was made all in the microwave, our waitress bragged. What a strange thing to be proud of, I thought. This was such an interesting dish. The cloud of strawberry foam was topped with this carbonated filled strawberry jelly. It popped in my mouth just like the "olives" at the Bazaar. The whole thing was lightly sprinkled with pepper and topped with celery leaves. It all worked, strangely enough!

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