Ellen in Lalaland, (Almost) Post-Pandemic Style

I preface all this by saying that I kept my mask on as much as possible when going out, practiced social distancing, kept my hands clean, and if you are not vaccinated I implore you to not do as I did. So, get that vaccine, so you can join in the fun. Onwards. “You need this. I need this, we need to get out,” stated my friend as I protested. Despite cabin fever and being vaccinated, I tilted against a day that was to be spent with roller coasters and medium-plus notes of funnel cakes. Yes, yes. It all began with a trip to Six Flags Magic Mountains. I was a fool to have resisted. After a year of feeling like we would NEVER get back to close-to normal, I wasn’t amped to get back to the world. Parking, traffic, OTHER PEOPLE?! The thought overwhelmed. But, Band-Aid ripped, I’ve caved into full on sowing my hibernating (they’ve always been wild) oats. Magic Mountains was rife with hand sanitizer and masks and the thrill of careening on the Viper upside down broke me like a beautiful bombastic Barolo . The fact that the really simple rides that spin you in circles in various fashions (The Flash, Swashbuckler swings, Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth) were pure joy, and reminded me that much like a basic glass of ice-cold rosé , sometimes simple pleasures are what you need. I had neither Barolo nor rosé at Six Flags, but I could have gotten a Black Cherry White Claw if I wanted. I opted for Barq’s Root Beer. After that adventure I was off to the races in terms of activities outside the home—still masking and sanitizing, never fear. I went to the movies, where my beverage thrill was Vanilla Coke Zero, paired with Butterfinger ice cream bites and “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba”, an anime film. I don’t need extravagance. Spin me in circles. Pour me rosé. Hug me as hard. It’s the little things. And yet! I live in Lalaland. We have fantabulous food and drink. I needed to aim higher. So I decided to get OUT. To go for the fun. To see how nightlife was in this almost-normal world that still involved distance and masks but was reintroducing talking to strangers. I went downtown. To Hotel Figueroa. Not my idea, but we had a friend bartending. Last time I was there was a Labor Day pool party where I drank badddddd red wine in the hot tub (hot tub, warm wine, not my best moment) while we witnessed two girls performatively going at it. I say this not as judgement just…they kept looking around make sure someone was watching, and I’ve never come so close to seeing sex in public. Meanwhile my friend’s friend bit my toes. I have pictures. What an afternoon. I digress. But since HotTubGate, Hotel Figueroa has been revamped, revibed and I was IMPRESSED by the wine menu, which included a long-standing favorite of mine: Stolpman Love You Bunches , a carbonic Sangiovese. Because I wanted pink, I went for an Austrian St. Laurent offering. Delightful. We balanced the treats with manchego truffle fries and black beans. We wanted mayo for the fries and all they had was some sort of chili infused vegan aioli hybrid THING (look I think true aioli is oil and garlic but these days it is synonymous for most as garlicky mayo) that felt like such an LA move. Then in LA madness I went to Universal Studios theme park for like, half a day. Honestly, these parks are so much more enjoyable with social distancing, particularly for claustrophobes like me. I rode the Harry Potter ride a couple of times and then I drank two places: Duff’s (in the Simpsons themed areas) and then there was a stop at Starbucks for a nitro cold brew. My god I love that nitro goodness, and also the one with sweet cream. What did I drink at Duff’s? Ummm, it was St. Francis Chardonnay and ya know what? I didn’t mind it. It kinda tasted like a cupcake, which seemed somehow appropriate. Then the next day, socializing fatigue set in, and I relished a glass of wine and ordering a pizza at home. There are some pandemic habits I picked up that may not go anywhere, much as I missed my hometown haunts. I possibly see less going out than I did in the before times? Because sometimes I really do love hanging out with myself and I was my own best bud for the last year. On the other hand I can’t wait to get back to Lalaland articles as I originally conceived them: reporting on restaurants from the ‘dine at the bar’ perspective. Pretty soon I’ll be pulling up a barstool to get the scoop. Stay tuned. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Want to read more from Ellen? Check out her recent articles: May Flowers Ma Sherry Space Wine More Wine Women Guilty Pleasures All I Want for Valentine’s Day Is Some Skin Contact Bridgerton, Beverage by Beverage Make Your Own Wine Winter Whites Wine For Kamala You can also listen to Ellen's podcast , The Wine Situation here . Check out her recent transcripts of the Final Five questions: Wine Situation Final Five! With Philippe André Wine Situation Final Five! With Theodora Lee

St. Francis Winery

Sonoma County Chardonnay 2019

Rob N

Not the fanciest wine, but tasty and well-executed for the price point. I have a soft spot for St. Francis. — 3 years ago

Stolpman Vineyards

"Love You Bunches" Carbonic Sangiovese 2016


This is some different and fun stuff. So tasty. So unique.

Bright red tone, ruby red. Cherries and raspberries. Light effervescence. Saw a review on here that said pop rocks. Nailed it.
— 5 years ago

Jillian Varner
with Jillian
Ely and David liked this

Stolpman Vineyards

"Love You Bunches" Carbonic Sangiovese 2019

Exactly what I’m looking for in a rosé. Great acidity, juicy fruit. This delivered. Strawberry & a kiss of vanilla. Surprisingly better on day two. — 4 years ago

St. Francis Winery

Behler Vineyard Sonoma Valley Chardonnay 2014

Really great chilled, one of our wines from our Napa trip — 7 years ago

St. Francis Winery

Wild Oak Sonoma Valley Chardonnay 2016

Joe F

Pineapple, full bodied, vanilla, honeysuckle. Limited acidity, balanced alcohol. — 4 years ago

Stolpman Vineyards

"Love You Bunches" Carbonic Sangiovese 2019

Cannot stop drinking. I think I first tasted this 2016 or 17 and year after year it is my darling. About to heat some pizza to go with. Egads LOVE this carbonic Sangiovese. I want to share it with the world:just the whiffs of kirsch and bubble gum are so light and SO perfect with a slight chill and I’m about to see how it goes with a pizza pie. There is some white pepper and caramelized cherry. Some LA nights are more fun than others. — 4 years ago

Neil, Serge and 18 others liked this
Neil Valenzuela

Neil Valenzuela

Spent many nights in Van Nuys... LA nights are hit or miss. Pizza and good red wine- I can agree! 🍷
Paul T- Huntington Beach

Paul T- Huntington Beach

I agree about LA being hit or miss, living in the OC there are nights I can smell LA & other nights it dissipates.
Ellen Clifford

Ellen Clifford Influencer Badge Premium Badge

@Neil Valenzuela @Paul T- Huntington Beach Hmmm, I said some nights are better than others—I didn’t mean to imply there are a lot of bad ones! I happen to love it here. I don’t know if I’d feel that way if I lived in Van Nuys though. I’m by downtown and adore it. But at least we can all agree on pizza and red wine! 🍕🍷❤️