Santa Catalina Island, Calif.
Santa Catalina Island, known simply as Catalina, welcomes more than one million tourists each year, according to the Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau. Southwest of Los Angeles, it’s just an hourlong ferry ride — or a 15-minute helicopter trip — away from the port of Los Angeles in San Pedro.
These days, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the summer hot spot (known for its water activities like scuba diving, snorkeling and boat tours of its reefs) is closed to visitors. But an easy and simple way to get a taste of the destination is by making its signature cocktail, the Buffalo Milk (no actual buffalo milk required), named after the buffalos that roam the island.
Blend together with ice: a splash of half-and-half, a shot of vodka, half a shot of Kahlúa and half a shot each of crème de cacao and crème de banane liqueurs. Top with whipped cream, ground nutmeg and a slice of banana to experience the rich and creamy treat.
“I’m a huge lover of dessert drinks,” says L.A.-based Leslie Kirchhoff, a DJ, photographer and author of “Disco Cube Cocktails: 100+ Innovative Recipes for Artful Ice and Drinks.”
She has an entire section dedicated to the category of drinks in her new release ($18.95, Chronicle Books), which not only showcases a variety of enticing cocktails but imaginative ice cube creations to accompany and elevate each one (using herbs, edible flowers, playing with shapes and other components). The book includes guidance on tools, glassware and bartending techniques, as well as seven curated music playlists. As DJ, she’s played in cities around the world, from Tokyo to Mexico City. Her first residency was at the Boom Boom Room in New York City.
“Since the flavors are so strong, it would be fun to make chocolate-infused ice and do the same with vanilla and banana, stacked on top of each other in layers,” she says of enhancing the Buffalo Milk cocktail. Disco Cubes is a passion project, a company and creative studio all in one. “It’s very much about having fun with things, appreciating the moment and experimenting.”
“We’re all going through a bottle a night in quarantine,” says Michelle Helms, co-owner of Napa-based tour company Laces and Limos with partner Dieter Pietsch. “We need to slow it down and engage.”
Online alcohol sales are in fact up 234 percent compared to this time a year ago, according to Nielsen market research, during the seven-week coronavirus-impacted period through April 18. After closing her doors, Helms (known locally as Chel) has pivoted to offer online experiences that she hopes wine lovers will take the time to savor, including a tour of Italics Winegrowers’ Napa Valley cave.
Available at lacesandlimos.com, consumers receive wine from the winery, a kit of goods — including a $50 gift certificate to Laces and Limos — and a virtual, guided walk through the space for $195. “They do it live so it feels personal and intimate,” explains Helms.
In partnership with various Napa Valley wineries, she also offers a blind tasting package, priced starting at $119. “It’s a sensory experience,” she continues. “Every bottle is wrapped in tissue paper, so you don’t know what you’re drinking. There’s a glossary, a how-to guide, and at the end, there’s a sealed envelope with information on the wines.” There are also other items, including pairing recipes courtesy of Pietsch, a trained chef. “We’ve sold over 100 of these kits. I could cry,” she says. “We’re a small business.”
Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree, east of Palm Springs, is a sanctuary in Southern California. With its vast deserts, including parts of both the high Mojave Desert and the lower Colorado Desert, it has become a spiritual escape (and one of the first national parks to reopen amid the pandemic) with a number of surrounding businesses offering a range of wellness experiences, from retreats to spas.
“Take a bath,” suggests Deborah Hanekamp of bringing tranquility and self-care to your home. She’s the author of “Ritual Baths: Be Your Own Healer.” “Put some intention into it. Light candles, put on music that heals your soul, put your crystals and flowers in the bath. Make it smell divine, and you will feel divine while you are soaking in the magic you’ve created for yourself.”
She’s been practicing “medicine readings” for close to 20 years. “[It’s] designed to inspire you to be your own healer,” she continues. “When you come for a medicine reading, we begin by you speaking about anything you are looking to call in or clear out, then I read your aura and tell you what I see coming up, after you experience an energy healing ceremony, and then I send you on your way with a prescription for a ritual bath.”
Hanekamp is offering the service online one-on-one or through a monthly or annual membership called Space by Mama Medicine (on Instagram, she can be found @mamamedicine). With workshops and interactive ceremonies, it’s focused on providing a live experience.
Today, more than ever, we need to feel “empowered to heal ourselves,” she adds. Baths are a way to de-stress and soothe body aches and pains. “[It’s] a place to take deep breaths and remind yourself that you are held. Think about it, we all know we feel one way before we get into a bath and another way when we get out. I think that feeling of cleansing goes deeper than just the body, I think the bath is also cleansing our spirits.”
Santa Barbara, Calif.
Overnight, Santa Barbara-based sea urchin diver Stephanie Mutz went from being a wholesaler, supplying uni to fine-dining establishments like Providence and n/naka in L.A., to delivering goods to consumers directly.
“Everyone canceled orders,” Mutz says of restaurants, which closed their doors due to COVID-19 (though some have reopened for takeout). She, alongside fellow diver and business partner Harry Liquornik, acted quickly and began utilizing Instagram at @seastephaniefish to take individual orders via text message. “It was an overwhelmingly fantastic response, but it wasn’t sustainable, so we now have an online store, and that’s been more sane, for sure.”
Their virtual market, on seastephaniefish.com, offers a variety of seafood (also caught by local fishermen), from Hope Ranch mussels to Morro Bay oysters. Currently, options include live red sea urchins for $11 each, abalone for $10 each and gutted, gilled, about 12-pound California king salmons for $180. And East Coasters, too, can get a taste of California seafood. Mutz has also ships to farmer Jonathan Bernard (on Instagram at @streetleafsjonny), who has been organizing home deliveries in New York City.
On the West Coast, pickups are available on Saturday mornings at Costa Mesa at 7 a.m. and in West Los Angeles at 10:30 a.m. (or home delivery with a $500 minimum by texting 805-708-4969). And Santa Barbara locals are able to pick up on Friday evening or Saturday afternoon at the city’s harbor (or receive home delivery with a $60 minimum).
“People don’t even get out of their cars,” Mutz says. “We put everything in their cars or trunks.” On Saturdays, she’s up at 2 a.m. and doesn’t get home until 7 p.m. “I’m not complaining,” she adds. “I’m grateful.”
In the early morning of December 2018, Asian-fusion eatery Wabi Sabi — a staple on Venice’s Abbot Kinney Boulevard for nearly three decades — caught fire. And while there were no casualties, the devastation completely destroyed the space. “We’ve been welcomed with open arms so that has been helpful,” says Tricia Small, who took over ownership with co-owner Sam Marshall in 2015. Now known as Wabi on Rose, the restaurant has relocated to 512 Rose Ave., #F with the help of two new partners, including former Paramount Pictures vice chairman Rob Moore.
“We started the renovation [at the new address] about four weeks prior to the current climate. We’re calling it lockdown,” continues Small with a laugh. “We immediately focused on the kitchen and making specific safety zones. Only one or two people can be in a zone at once. We have a color-coding system, and chefs have their own lanes.” Everyone wears gloves, masks, temperatures are taken, and meals are handled by as few employees as necessary.
They reopened in early April with curbside pickup and delivery via GrubHub, Chow Now and Postmates. “We were probably one of the first that opened for the takeout services, offering a full menu in Venice, so that also helped business,” she says. Online, they can be found at wabionrose.com.
Executive chef Rain Pantana has been providing “Wabi classics,” including the $26 Moon and $25 Rain sushi rolls. And for her part, beverage director Leah Hendle has made sure the to-go menu includes the Wabi Spicy Marg and Lychee Tini, both $19 for a 350-ml bottle (or $49 for the 750-ml version).
“It’s delicious with a kick but smooth, and we use fresh chili and a local brand, Nosotros [Tequila],” says Small of the margarita, a best-seller. “The drinks are flowing.”