Open Sesame is filled with Lebanese Delights

IMG_1457East of Fairfax in Los Angeles is a new full-service casual Lebanese restaurant, Open Sesame. The name comes from the magical phrase in one of the stories from One Thousand and One Nights. In the story “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” when Open Sesame is announced, the mouth of a cave opens in which forty thieves have hidden treasures. At Open Sesame, the restaurant is filled with wonderful culinary treasures. You will find garlicky fried potatoes, baba ganoush, and exquisite falafel patties made of chickpeas and fava beans, garlic, onions, herbs and exotic spices.

The founder of Open Sesame, Ali Kobeissi opened his first restaurant in Long Beach 14 years ago. It started small, then got so popular that he expanded to accommodate the demand. People from Los Angeles would drive down to Long Beach to enjoy his lamb chops, chicken tawook and beef kabobs, so he opened another Open Sesame in Los Angeles.

Looking over the menu, I learned that everything that comes out of the kitchen is prepared from scratch using fresh ingredients, and many of the recipes have been in Kobeissi’s family for generations.

It’s a colorful restaurant with a full bar, indoor and outdoor seating. The interior offers Mediterranean light fixtures, tile flooring and skylights in the middle of the dining room making it light and bright.

On my first visit, we started with green ice tea with a splash of orange blossom water and mint while looking over the menu.IMG_1465

The general manager, Alex, approached our table to recommend a few appetizers. We ordered the signature fried potatoes sautéed with cilantro, garlic, roasted chili and a generous amount of lemon juice. When they arrived we dipped them in the garlic sauce to jazz them up even more.

Another appetizer worth ordering is the grilled halloumi cheese with slices of watermelon. The white cheese and bright red watermelon were presented like fallen dominos, slightly stacked on top of each other. I had never tasted halloumi cheese – a mixture of cow, sheep and goat cheese. It has a higher melting point than other cheese and is easy to fry giving it a slightly golden and springing texture.

Open Sesame offers three different salads that are dressed in a mixture of extra virgin olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon juice, dry mint and sumac. Sumac is a reddish-purple powder used as a spice to add a lemony taste to salads or meat. It enhances the tabouleh with chopped parsley, bulgar, tomato and fresh mint. It also give a bit of pizzazz to the fattoush, a Lebanese peasant salad topped with toasted pita chips.

IMG_1459To get a sampling of authentic Lebanese delights, we ordered the Open Sesame combo with a skewer of extra lean ground beef and lamb, cubes of marinated and charbroiled chicken breast served with garlic sauce and wild cucumber pickles. It also comes with a beef kabob that is marinated and charbroiled top sirloin steak. The dish arrives with basmati rice and either creamy hummus or the smokey garlic baba ganoush made with cooked eggplant mixed with onions, tomatoes, olive oil and various seasonings. Both are excellent, however I love their baba ganoush. I spooned it on just about everything.

You can order these on the lunch and dinner menu. Another lunch favorite is the pita sandwich. There are ten varieties to choose from on the menu. I ordered the fried cauliflower with onion, lettuce, tomato, pine nuts and a tahini sauce. Tahini is a paste made from ground, hulled sesame seeds. Lemon juice is added with salt and garlic, and then thinned with water. It is one of the most popular toppings for meat and vegetables in Middle Eastern cuisine.
They offer a special lunch menu that includes an entree and salad. The falafel is dynamite and is served with hummus, fattoush, tomato, lettuce, pickled cucumbers and Tahini sauce.

They make three different types of Paninis with a choice of charbroiled chicken shawarma cooked on a spit and sliced thinly IMG_1462or a vegetarian labne made with creamy kefir cheese, tomato, fresh mint and olives. They also make a halloumi cheese and cucumber panini.

Save room for their baklawa made with flaky phyllo pastry and filled with pistachios. It pairs well with Lebanese ice cream in pistachio or almond flavor. Another tasty treat is K’naafeh. It’s a Lebanese version of sticky toffee pudding cake. It’s made with semolina wheat pastry with sweet cheese or ashta cream and a sprinkling of orange blossom syrup. It’s not as sugary as sticky toffee pudding and is extremely satisfying. Pair this with a Moroccan green hot tea infused with mint and orange blossom.

Open Sesame offers a catering services that offers three of four courses with a selection of appetizers, entrees, salads and desserts starting at $25 per person. Menus include plenty of lamb, beef and poultry dishes as well as several options for vegans, vegetarians and gluten-free guests.

They offer drop-off service with food arriving in disposable serving trays at the correct temperature. This is ideal for business luncheons, wrap parties, baby and bridal showers, wedding receptions and charity events.

At Open Sesame the quality of the ingredients shines through and leaves you wanting to experience Lebanese cuisine again. $-$$ Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. On Friday and Saturday it stays open until 11 p.m. 7458 Beverly Blvd. (323)525-1698.

This article was published in the October 2, 2014 issue of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.

Hong Kong’s New Cruise Port

9053351_f520Hong Kong has the new Kai Tak World Class Cruise Facility, making it a wonderful cruise port for many cruise lines. The Star Cruises’ largest Asian vessel, the SuperStar Virgo is based in Hong Hong and sails from the port to Taichung and Kaohsiung in Taiwan, Sanya in Hainan, China, or Halong Bay in Vietnam. The Celebrity Millennium offers a 14-Night Southbound Asian Allure Cruise from Hong Kong to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, then Bangkok,Thailand to Singapore.

Princess cruises has their Diamond Princess sailing on six night cruises from Hong Kong to Da Nang, Nha Trang, Ho Chi Minh City to Singapore. Before of after your cruise passengers like to stay a few nights at the newly renovated Mandarin Oriental. The hotel spent $150 million to renovate its 501 guestrooms, 10 9053420_f520restaurants, and numerous public spaces, as well as to construct the Mandarin Spa. Now there are 71 individually-designed suites and 430 guest rooms with either exciting city or lovely harbor views.

About 200 meters from the Mandarin Oriental is its sister, The Landmark Hotel. The Landmark offers an exquisite contemporary design with oversized rooms.The sister Landmark hotel offers 113 large guest rooms and has Amber, a two Michelin star restaurant- The Amber. The Amber is offering black truffle from Tasmania. The “Black Diamonds” creations by Chef Richard Ekkebus are paired with premium wines selected from traditional wine regions in France to enhance the taste.

Within the last five years the art and wine world have made a big introduction into Hong Kong. “During art auctions, the airport runs out of space for all the private jets,” shared Jonas Schuermann, General Manager of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Hong Kong. “Hong Kong has become a city filled with stunning artwork in all of the galleries.” Hong Kong is very also very GREEN with approximately 3/4 of Hong Kong is rural, comprising of 24 country parks, scenic hills, woodlands, reservoirs and coastline easily accessible from the city. The concierge team at the Mandarin Oriental can steer guests to the best walking and hiking trails.

The cuisine in Hong Kong ranges from rooftop bars to Michelin starred restaurants. There are now 7000 restaurants and bars located within blocks of the Mandarin Oriental. At the Mandarin Oriental, 80% of the patrons in the ten restaurants are locals in Hong Kong. They enjoy dining at the Michelin starred restaurants from legendary French chef Pierre Gagnaire at Pierre and Mandarin Grill +Bar serving classic grill dishes and seafood. Schuermann mentioned that Executive British Chef and television star Gordon Ramsay is opening a Bread Street Kitchen restaurant in Hong Kong this coming September. Bread Street Kitchen opens in the Hotel LKF by Rhombus near to where Jamie Oliver is expected to open an Italian restaurant. According to a press release, Bread Street Kitchen, which serves “British European” food.

While in Hong Kong visit the following 5 attractions: 1.Visit The Peak. It’s the highest point on Hong Kong Island and has been the city’s most exclusive neighborhood since colonial times. The views are of the world’s most spectacular cityscapes. The Peak Tram became the first cable funicular in Asia in 1888 and remains one of the steepest and oldest cable railroads in the world. An average of over 11,000 people ride the Peak Tram every day or more than 4 million annually.The opening and closing scenes of the 1955 movie Soldier of Fortune, starring Clark Gable, were filmed in the Peak Tram.

2. Shop at Ladies Market – It gets its name from the huge amount of clothing and accessories on sale for women of all ages. With over 100 stalls of bargain clothing, accessories and souvenirs, the Ladies’ Market on Tung Choi Street provides a stretch where you can haggle the price. Watches, cosmetics, bags, home furnishings, CDs and trinkets are also for sale.

3. The Wong Tai Sin Temple’s claim to ‘make every wish come true upon request’ might have something to do with its popularity. It is home to three religions – Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism. Its natural setting and beautifully ornamented buildings make it as much a scenic attraction as an important religious centre.

4. Temple Street Night Market – In the evening, when the sun goes down, the traders lay out their wares and the opera singers and fortune tellers begin to emerge. Named after a Tin Hau temple located in the center, the place is steeped in local atmosphere. It has served as the backdrop to many a memorable movies. Nearest Metro stop: Jordan or Yau Ma Tei.

5. Lin Heung Tea House – Try the lotus paste buns or the glutinous rice dumplings. 160-164 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong; 852-2544-4556.

5 Fun Hong Kong Facts:

1. In 2005 Hong Kong Disneyland officially opened its gates. It’s the third Disney theme park outside the US and the first in China.

2. Hong Kong has the most skyscrapers in the world. There are 8,000 buildings that have more than 14 floors. That is almost double that of New York City.

3. The British government colonized Hong Kong in 1841 during the first Opium War (1839-43). It was handed back to China in 1997.

4. Mongkok is one of the most popular street food destinations in Hong Kong with locals and visitors. It’s a unique culinary experience with stalls on pedestrian sidewalks offering cooked meat, vegetables, noodles and cut fresh fruits.

5. Hong Kong is composed of more than 200 islands.

To learn more about Hong Kong go to http://www.discoverhongkong.com. To learn more about the Mandarin Oriental http://www.mandarinoriental.com/hongkong/.

This article was published in the October issue of Not Born Yesterday.

800 Degrees in Old Town Pasadena

DSC_0208I was so excited to see a line of people eager to try 800 Degrees pizza last week. Co-owner Allen Ravert greeted me inside and showed off the interior decor. All of his Umami Group restaurants have chandeliers, an animal head (usually found in consignment stores in Palm Springs), unique wall colors and mirrors. 800 Degrees in Pasadena doesn’t disappoint.

Located in a historic building on the corner of Colorado Blvd. and Fair Oaks, it’s designed by John C. Austin, the architect who designed Griffith Park Observatory and the Los Angeles City Hall. Ravert took me into the ordering area and had me admire a beautiful mural on the wall. “As we removed the drywall, we discovered this  beautiful mural from famed Pasadena artist Kenton Nelson,” Ravert said. “It’s now restored to its original beauty and located in the ordering room.” Ravert is talking to Nelson about putting up more artwork in the dining area.

DSC_0222

Executive Chef Anthony Carron and Allen Ravert

The Umami Group, Adam Fleischman and Allen Ravert, met Executive Chef Anthony Carron in Las Vegas years ago and discussed creating a new concept in pizza that would change the pizza world. Fleischman had so much success with his Umami Burger and believed pizza offers that same satisfying Umami experience.

Carron created a menu of pizzas that could be assembled and baked in less than two minutes. They opened their first 800 Degrees in 2011 in Westwood, near UCLA and became an instant success. Soon after, fast-concept pizza restaurants opened soon all over Southern California.

800 Degrees enjoyed the Westwood community and opened in Santa Monica. They also believed it’s an ideal concept at LAX for travelers to order quickly and take a meal to enjoy during their flight, so they opened at LAX. Then Vegas called, and they opened in Las Vegas at the Monte Carlo Resort.

What makes this pizza so tasty? Carron perfected the crust made in-house from only Italian flour, wild yeast, sea salt and filtered water. He purchases the freshest ingredients to create classic Neapolitan pizza. Naturally grown California tomatoes, and cheese from Di Stefano by the Bruno Family, known for their amazing Burrata cheese.

They also make classic salads that include a Gorgonzola, Caesar and a “Create Your Own. Their Burrata is served with beets with balsamic, cherry tomatoes with pesto, artichokes, olives and prosciutto with melon.terrific wood-oven meatballs baked with tomato, oregano and Parmigiano.

There is truffle cheese bread and wood-roasted broccolini with garlic, Calabrian chiles and olive oil.

DSC_0219You tell your personal chef the ingredients you want on your pizza and he/she will assemble it, pop it in the 800 degree oven and hand it to you within one minute. It’s easy to walk out satisfied for less than $10 per person.

They have other 800 Degrees planned to open soon at Downtown LA – 800 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90017. Another in Las Vegas – SLS Hotel and Casino – 2780 Las Vegas Boulevard South, Las Vegas, NV 89109 and The Runway at Playa Vista – 12751 Millennium, Suite #B135, Playa Vista, CA.

To learn more, go to – http://www.800degreespizza.com

Pet Friendly Yountville

Photo by Jill Weinlein

Photo by Jill Weinlein

Yountville is famous for Napa Valley wines, Michelin star-studded dining, amazing artwork & luxurious resorts to relax, unwind and enjoy being pampered. It’s also a terrific pet-friendly destination

Summer Parade with Dogs

Yountville loves our furry friends. The charming one street town leaves a welcome mat or Fido, Ginger and Butch, and a water bowl too.

It’s the only Wine Country town with a winery (Jessup Cellars) that hosts a summertime fashion parade for the best-dressed dogs. They call it their Dress to the K-Nines Stroll.

Located in the middle of town, guests can sip wine at the wine bar or relax with a sit-down, wine tasting in the spacious art gallery.

The owners of Jessup Cellars are three families in the healthcare profession. They give back to the community by hosting special events such as Dress to the Vines weekends and Art House Sessions.

Jessup’s winemaker Rob Lloyd is an expert at the art of blending. Try his 2011 Zinfandel. It’s bright with big fruit flavors and a pleasing finish. 6740 Washington Street – Yountville (707)944-5620 http://www.jessupcellars.com

 

Wine Tasting with Man’s Best Friend

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Here are some more dog-friendly tasting rooms:

Girard Winery – Gaining critical acclaim for excellent wines at great values – http://www.girardwinery.com

Somerston Wine Co. –  Home of Somerston Estate, Priest Ranch and Highflyer wines located high in the eastern hills of Napa Valley – http://www.somerstonewineco.com

Domaine Chandon – Discover a sparkling wine, the result of 250 years of winemaking innovation – http://www.chandon.com

Hill Family Estate – After three decades of farming grapes for some of Napa Valley’s finest wine producers, Doug and the family decided that their family should enter the wine business. http://www.hillfamilyestate.com

Bell Cellars – Anthony and Sandra Bell offer tours of their vineyards and barrel room before taking guests on a sensory training tasting. Smell fresh fruit, herbs and other delectables represented in wine flavors and aromas. They also offer a Winemarker for the Day class and cheese and wine tasting. Bell Wine Cellars is committed to handcrafting limited edition bottles of extraordinary wines. The tasting room is open daily 7 days a week from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.. Call to schedule a visit. 6200 Washington Street • Yountville • California • 94599 • (707)944-1673.

Pet Friendly Dining Venues

IMG_7671Outdoor patio picnics are available for pups and “parents” at Michael Chiarello’s NapaStyle.

At Hurley’s Restaurant, Chef Bob Hurley and team welcome dogs on the patio with a water bowl and a treat.

Pacific Blues Café welcomes dogs on the patio with a San Francisco Giants water bowl or a plain bowl, on request.

At Lucy Restaurant at the Bardessono, the Dog Menu includes three entrees and two desserts for pups dining on the Lucy Patio. They’ve also started a dog-friendly happy hour called Dog Bar. 2014 marks the second year of the program which runs late spring through October. From 5-7 p.m. guests can bring in their dogs for a special promotion: $25 includes light snacks and a glass of wine from Lucy Restaurant & Bar (for the owner) and a cookie for your pup. All proceeds benefit the local humane society. Lucy encourages everyone to post their favorite photos of their dogs and their visits to the Dog Bar to Lucy’s Facebook wall, too. Each week, the person that receives the most likes for their photo receives lunch for two at Lucy.

Other pup-friendly outdoor dining is available at Bistro Jeanty, and at two of Thomas Keller’s restaurants, Ad Hoc’s Addendum and Bouchon Bakery. Bouchon offers two kinds of gourmet dog biscuits alongside their regular delectables, made from freshly ground corn meal and wholesome chicken liver, then glazed with a touch of ketchup. Yummy and good for them, too!

 

Lodging with your Dog

The French country-inspired Vintage Inn welcomes pets of all kinds. The Inn’s Pet Fee includes pet bowls, a pet bed fashioned with cushions, and wrought iron doggy IMG_7632beds with mattresses on request. An amenity package with treats and other dog essentials is presented at check-in, and treats are always available at the front desk. In the morning, precious pooches can accompany their owners for Champagne breakfast on the Vintage Inn patio.

Lavender Inn welcomes dogs up to two per room and “Breakfast in Bed” is included in the Pet Fee.

At North Block Hotel, property mascot and canine greeter Pismo often stars in the hotel’s Facebook page postings. Guests who bring their canine companion will find a comfy pet bed, bowls and special treats, all complimentary.

The luxe Bardessono welcomes pets; the hotel’s Lucy Restaurant & Bar offers a Dog Menu and, in summer and fall, a dog-friendly happy hour called Dog Bar.

Walks and Hikes

Yountville is the best walking town for pets in Napa Valley, the perfect place for travelers and their four-legged friends to soak in the beauty of wine country:

Admire the town's art while walking your lovable pooch.

Admire the town’s art while walking your lovable pooch.

Stroll over to Yountville Community Park–dog-friendly and right in town. Five parks in Yountville welcome pets. The “Yountville Mile” (the first segment of the Napa Valley Vine Trail) runs from the north end of town, south to Domaine Chandon, and pets are welcome. The Napa River Ecological Reserve Trail, one of the few dog-friendly trails on public lands in all of Napa Valley, is located on the Yountville Crossroad. Its one-mile interpretive loop trail has been called an oasis in wine country.

For additional information about Yountville, click on this link- yountville.com

Cafe del Rey: Beautiful Seaside Dining

9098314_f520In the 1970s and 1980s, Marina del Rey was “the place” in Los Angeles for singles and young couples. Now, with tech start-up companies flocking to Southern California, Marina del Rey and the surrounding communities are experiencing a resurgence of young professionals to the community, which is commonly referred to as “Silicon Beach”.

One of the culinary hot spots in the area is Cafe del Rey, which offers creative cocktails and farm-to-table fare. Executive chef Chuck Abair said he loves walking out of the kitchen and enjoying the view of the harbor with boats bobbing in the water.
Previously a sous chef for chef Michael Cimarusti at Providence, Abair joined Cafe del Rey in 2011 as the chef de cuisine, working alongside former executive chef Daniel Roberts. His background in preparing seafood dishes has allowed him to create menus highlighting seasonal flavors and emphasizing seafood paired with housemade ingredients.

Chef Abair is a graduate of Le Cordon Blue California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, and has more than 10 years of culinary experience. His passion for cooking started as a child, when he enjoyed watching “The Galloping Gourmet” and Julia Child.

I was joined by a friend for lunch at Café del Rey, where Abair prepared a wild caught Hawaiian moonfish with chanterelle mushrooms, roasted purple pearl onions and 9096370_f520a moist chick pea cake topped with pan jus. Abair is a whiz with grilled fish, with rave reviews of his swordfish, salmon, barramundi and yellowtail.
He also makes an incredible cheeseburger with Brie cheese, oven dried tomatoes, arugula, caramelized onions and a mustard aioli. The burger is served with crisp French fries and housemade ketchup.

Other specialties include Dungeness crab cakes, grilled cheese on brioche with tomato soup and a lamb burger with harissa-spiced fries. Regulars often enjoy the daily Cinque Terre, offering a selection of five small dishes with a Mediterranean influence.

We saved room for his maple berry pie with cinnamon ice cream, and also sampled the chocolate tower adorned with an orange sauce, and his luscious butterscotch flan.

With fall approaching, Abair is preparing a new menu with dishes made from ingredients found at farmers’ markets. Last year’s fall menu included sweet potato gnocchi, salmon with butternut squash, and lamb osso buco with mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts and pine nut gremolata.

Abair said he is planning another “Permission to Come Aboard” half-day fishing expedition that gives seafood lovers and adventurous diners an all-hands-on-deck experience. The cost for the fishing excursion is $55, which includes equipment and a fishing license. Abair shows guests around Marina del Rey before they drop lines. The boat later docks at Cafe del Rey for a barbecue lunch with the freshly caught fish from the trip.

Cafe del Rey offers a casual, yet sophisticated experience for lunch, brunch and dinner. $$-$$$ 4451 Admiralty Way, (310)823-6395.

This article was published in the Sept. 4 issue of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea Newspapers.

Parq Bar at the Montage Beverly Hills

IMG_0718The Parq Bar at the Montage Beverly Hills is an elegant experience, offering an ideal spot for socializing in an attractive, clubby atmosphere. An all-day menu is offered featuring Hamachi and various sushi and sashimi dishes, as well as fresh garden salads and sandwiches. The menu is appealing to area business women and men who come to the Montage Beverly Hills for lunch and dine on lobster chopped salad, with gem lettuce, sliced avocado, cut fresh corn, sliced Marcona almonds, tomatoes and a slightly tangy chipotle dressing. A baby kale salad and an octopus salad are also available.

Comfortable club chairs and lounge seating are available to enjoy a small plate and a cocktail or two. The chilled crab tower with fresh lump crab surrounded by sliced tomato and avocado and drizzled with a slightly tart lemon oil with herbs, creating a low calorie yet satisfying dish, perfect for sharing.

The crab tower and panzanella salad are among the selections for the Suite 100 menu that five leading Beverly Hills hotels have created in honor of Beverly Hills’ centennial celebration. Aptly named Suite 100, each property created suites themed after different decades from the past 100 years.

The Montage Beverly Hills’ suite was designed by Nina Petronzi, and takes guests back to the 1940s with Lalique crystal accents, elegant drapery and tufted furniture. A special touch is the “champagne button” and with just one push, a bottle is delivered to the room.

The Parq Bar offers a Tiffin box daily for lunch with soup, salad, sandwich and dessert. The portions are perfect for lunch, and the selections change daily. Sandwiches Tiffin-Box.Parq_-300x164featured on the regular menu include braised short rib, jamon iberico and a Mary’s chicken sandwich.

The Parq Burger – another excellent choice for lunch – is an eight-ounce, grass fed beef burger with white cheddar cheese, tomato and delicate watercress. It comes with a cone of crispy French fries, and guests have a choice of truffle parmigiano, garlic and parsley, or jalapeño and paprika dust.

The Parq Bar also hosts an afternoon tea every Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Guests can enjoy artisanal teas served in one-of-a-kind, hand-painted china by porcelain artist Lissi Kaplan. The Montage’s signature tea is an organic, caffeine-free golden pomegranate tea with rooibos, rose hips, orange peel and lemon.
Executive pastry chef Julie Jangali prepares sweet and savory items such as smoked salmon with crème fraîche and IMG_0723basil on a zucchini muffin, and roasted beef with candied shallots and date marmalade on a cheddar cheese biscuit.

Additionally, guests can enjoy a treatment at the Spa Montage, which offers a nail salon, Kim Vo hair salon, massages, facials and wellness classes.
$$$ 225 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills. (310)499-4199. http://www.montagehotels.com/beverlyhills.

This article was featured in the August 28, 2014 issue of Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.

Jason Alexander -West Coast Broadway Bound

9148358_f520“As a young boy, I dreamed of becoming a magician,” said actor, director, writer, producer and comedian Jason Alexander, 54. The majority of NBY readers will fondly remember Alexander as George Costanza in the mega-successful television show Seinfeld. Alexander practiced his craft starting at the age of six and perform magic shows for family and friends until he was 13 years old.When his family moved to Livingston, New Jersey, the shy Alexander was welcomed by the theater kids at school. “They were friendly, supportive and quick to include me in the group,” he remembers good memories associated with being part of the theater community. To Alexander, the theater was like a big magic show. “Nothing is real in theater, it was the best magic trick. I didn’t have to saw an assistant in half or pull any rabbits out of a hat.”
From then on, he was a thespian throughout high school and college. He enrolled at BU (Boston University) and completed three years before getting a call to perform on Broadway. His acting career started in 1981 and he married in 1982.

Over the years, Jason Alexander has acquired other interests, such as poker and philanthropy. He competed on televised poker shows and in various tournaments. He has appeared twice on Bravo’s Celebrity Poker Showdown, winning the final table of the 8th season. Alexander won the $500,000 prize for his charity, The United Way of America to help benefit the New Orleans area. An avid poker player, Alexander was also one of the “famous faces” as a result of being a regular player on the online poker website Hollywood Poker.

Alexander played in the 2007 and 2009 World Series of Poker main event. He also signed with PokerStars where he plays under the screen name “J Alexander”.

Since his memorable role in the television series, Seinfeld, Alexander has been working constantly. Roles on stage, television and movies have allowed him to sing, 9148365_f520dance, act, write and totally immerse himself in the art.

Currently, Jason Alexander is directing Neil Simon’s hilarious and heartwarming semi-autobiographical play Broadway Bound at The Odyssey Theatre in West Los Angeles. This production is very special to him, because in 1986, Alexander starred in the production of Broadway Bound in New York City.

Now as the director, he feels as if he is a magician creating magic up on stage five shows a week. The opportunity came about when he went to see his dear friend, actress Gina Hecht perform in the 2013 La Mirada Theatre production of Broadway Bound. Hecht asked Alexander for advice after her performance. She wanted to know what he thought of the show and what needed improvement.

As he shared with her his experience about performing in Broadway Bound on Broadway, Hecht asked if he might consider directing the performance in the future. He replied “If the timing is right, yes, I would take a crack at it.” Hecht immediately talked to her other cast members at the La Mirada show including the legendary actor/professor/director Allan Miller and Ian Alda. Miller had the assistant director at the Odyssey Theatre come see the La Mirada production. When they got the “green light” Miller, Hecht and Alda agreed to star in the show with Alexander directing the production.

9148364_f260Mr. Alexander has bonded with the cast and has enjoyed the interactions, specifically mentioning Allan Miller. The 85 year old actor lives in a suburb in Los Angeles and I was able to talk with him, as well.

This is Miller’s third time starring in Broadway Bound. Miller and Alexander hit it off immediately and work well with each other.

“I have had 8 terrific Directors in my extensive acting career,” said Miller. “Jason Alexander is now my 9th favorite Director. He is passionate, enthusiastic and offers wonderful ideas to enhance the show.”
Miller explained that with Alexander’s direction, “Broadway Bound goes deep into the painfully perceptive life of Neil Simon.” Miller finished the interview with, “I have some of the best one-liners in the show.”

This is not the first time Jason Alexander has directed a show. He had the opportunity to direct three Seinfeld episodes. He also has directed the successful television shows – Mike & Milly and Everybody Hates Chris.

Alexander is captivated by the challenges and rewards of directing and is eager to direct more projects.9147122_f520

Broadway Bound runs Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and 2 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $30. On September 10 and September 19 audience members can buy “Pay What You Can” tickets for a $10 minimum. Also on September 19, a glass of wine is on the house. The Odyssey Theatre is at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd. Los Angeles. Box Office hours are from 1 p.m. to curtain. (310) 477-2055 ext. 2.

This article was featured in the September 2014 issue of Not Born Yesterday.

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