Julie Anne: I’m still chasing my shadow trying to get caught up after the month long family visit – working on some exciting new projects for the Personal Chef Approach™, and manning The Roving Stove’s phone which has been ringing off the hook with hungry clients. Aaron, Tatjana’s boyfriend who I finally got to meet, offered to help me out with another great guest blog post about his first visit to LA…

Aaron & Tatjana

Aaron & Tatjana in Newport Beach

Aaron: I’ve visited America a few times over the years, so when Julie Anne invited me over a few months ago I jumped at the chance. At first, the idea of meeting Tatjana’s mother seemed like a brilliant idea, but as the time grew nearer I became more and more nervous. After the grueling ten and a half our flight we finally landed in Los Angeles. Luckily, Julie Anne threw herself at us as soon as she saw us, and into a crushing hug (do not let looks deceive you she is she is surprisingly strong).

So my vacation had begun, and I had no idea what to expect. Before I’d had a chance to explore LA, we were whisked off to Newport Beach so I could meet Julie Anne’s parents. Luckily I got on with them very well and we headed out for dinner, where I learned my most important lesson about America. The portion sizes are insane and never to order an appetizer and expect to be able to finish your main meal. As you can probably tell, I’m a big fan of my food, as my waist line does like to boast at times. One of the highlights of the trip proved to be Julie Anne’s cooking – especially her Baked Penne with Hot Italian Turkey Sausage which I’ve been unsuccessfully searching for everywhere since arriving back in the rain drenched UK.

Meeting the mother AND the grandparents

Meeting the mother AND the grandparents

After an amazing week in Newport Beach, watching the sunset and rise over the ocean, it was back too LA. The first thing to really shock me was the sheer size of the city, and how terrible its public transport system is! Getting anywhere proved to be a nightmare. One bus failed to arrive at all on our way to a museum, and another we had to exit prematurely to get away from a man trying to sell us drugs (Julie Anne decided to be our chauffeur after the last incident).

There certainly is plenty to see and do in one of the world’s most famous cities. The Stanley Kubrick exhibition at LACMA was one of the first highlights. Since The Shinning possibly ranks as my favourite film of all time, the exhibition did not disappoint. It was stunning, and I really recommend any film buff in LA to make their way there before it closes.

Sightseeing in LA

Sightseeing in LA – Beverly Hills, Kubrick exhibition, Hollywood, and “Open-says-a-me time at the Magic Castle

One of the next activities that Julie had lined up for us was dinner at the Magic Castle, and I was really looking forward to it.  I’d heard about it years ago, and Tatjana’s father did say it was the one thing I shouldn’t miss. The food was great although I found it was the only place in America where the portions sizes are actually much smaller than you would expect. The 12 oz. prime rib couldn’t have weighed more than 6 oz. once the fat was trimmed. Luckily the rest of the evening did not disappoint, we saw a variety of incredible performers, one of which was rather disturbingly able to read my mind in front of a packed audience, and another got Julie Anne to pull an ice lolly out of thin air.

Next we went to a taping of the Ellen show. This was easily the strangest few hours of my life. Firstly, the traffic was horrific, bumper to bumper gridlock the entire way from Pacific Palisades to Burbank (and Julie Anne does not like driving in traffic to put it mildly). How we made it is beyond me. The oddest thing I found once we got there was the ‘audience motivator’. A job that, in the hands of an Englishman would probably drive most people to drown themselves in the toilet on their lunch break. This poor man had to get the crowd to dance and cheer for no apparent reason, through the entire duration of the shows commercial break. It eventually became rather annoying during the hour long taping.

Movies & TV show tapings

Movies & TV show tapings

Ellen herself was a very funny and sweet. She took time outside of the shows taping too address the audience long after the cameras had stopped rolling. Her guests were American Idol winner, Philip Philips (the audience all got copies of his CD – I’ve yet to open mine), Kyle Chandler, who was great in Zero Dark Thirty, Argo and Super 8, and the headliner was Jennifer Lopez, who was surprisingly entertaining.

USC vs. Oregon State

USC vs. Oregon State

Next up was a basketball game. Now I usually hate most sports in the UK, I find them boring and slow. American sports however are a completely different story. A few months ago Julie Anne got me and Taj tickets to see the women’s basketball finals at the Olympics and I loved it. This trip she got us tickets to see the USC men’s basketball team VS Oregon State. Now I can easily say that this was the best sports game that I have ever seen. Beating the excitement of the Olympic game I saw, and easily beating the countless football (soccer to Americans) games that I have been too.

The teams were neck and neck the entire match, with Oregon State always within ten points of USC for the entire game – which ended on one of those moments you only see in movies, where the team is down by one point thirty seconds from the final whistle and gets an all-important penalty shot, or whatever they call it in basketball. Unfortunately USC did not score and Oregon went to take victory, but it was still one of the most incredible and most enjoyable events that I have ever been too. At no English sport has there ever been such a level of excitement or drama, we just do not do it that way over here, and it is something that I really wish that we did do. Although I found the cheerleaders faintly ridiculous and could never see that taking off here.

Tatjana and Aaron up high over Santa Monica Pier on the ferris wheel

Tatjana and Aaron up high over Santa Monica Pier on the ferris wheel

Unfortunately my time came to an end far too quickly, but I saved plenty for return trips. I had a great time and I really hope to go back soon. Julie Anne is an incredible person and Los Angeles is an amazing city. What’s not too like?

Julie Anne: I’ll let you in on a secret, Aaron – I was nervous before meeting you too. It would’ve been a nightmare for Tatjana if we didn’t get on as well as we did. I got to see what it would be like to have a son, and it was nice to have some male energy in the house again. I hope there will be many more visits, and thanks for letting Tatjana and I have some mother-daughter time alone too. I uploaded the recipe to my website just to thank you!

Baked Penne with Hot Italian Sausage

This is an old client classic that is popular with children and adults alike. It’s also a great way to get your picky eaters to eat their spinach. I recently served it to my daughter’s boyfriend for dinner, and he liked it so much – he’s been in hot pursuit of Italian turkey sausage ever since (it is evidently hard to find in London).

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