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Admittedly, our city has a pretty bad rep for being as fake as the frozen botoxed faces found in more than a few ZIP codes. Former Angeleno Courtney Love has deemed us a bunch of figure-obsessed dieters, while LA blogstar Shea Marie has proclaimed her town a no-woman's-land for finding The One. But for every little ounce of haterade for the City of Angels, it's clear there's pound of love for our palm tree-lined playground, as illustrated by our many devoted transplants and natives alike—and cool new culture club TRUFFL wants prove there's more to LA than just juice bars and broken "let's do lunch" promises.
Founded by Raphael Farasat, the members-only site is much more than your average schmooze-and-booze affair. Part experience curator and part people mixer, TRUFFL is all about "building a community that would uncover the hidden gems of the city and package unique experiences for people who didn't have the time to do it themselves," he tells us. We chatted with the in-the-know entrepreneur to find out what inspired him to start the site, what it takes to join the club and some of his favorite shopping and foodie gems around town.
Screenshot via Truffl
What sparked you to start TRUFFL?
"TRUFFL was inspired by travel experiences and what we felt was missing in LA culture. I'm always inspired when I stumble across amazing things while exploring amazing cities, such as hidden restaurants in Tokyo and speakeasy music venues in Melbourne. However, returning home to LA, I found myself sometimes falling into the same routines.
I also thought Angelenos craved opportunities to find experiences outside of their own neighborhoods and connect with new, compelling people [...] Taking both aspects together, we built TRUFFL to connect creative and inspiring people from across industries for intimate gatherings, such as underground dinners, album listening parties, and classes with street artists and chefs."
Is there anything specific you look for in potential members?
"We're really focused on building our membership from across different industries and walks of life. I think part of the appeal of TRUFFL is creating the context for these truly compelling people, who might not otherwise connect, to have shared experiences together. There really isn't a single defining trait that we look for. Instead, we look for people doing interesting things with their career, who appreciate unique experiences, who are someone you'd like to sit next to at a dinner or experience a concert with."
What's been your favorite curated experience so far?
"Most of these experiences are things I'd like to do myself, so that's a tough question. I really enjoyed Electro Omakase—which was a 10-course Japanese Peruvian dinner, along with a concert by Active Child, previewing his new album. We held the event in a converted warehouse in the Arts District, and seeing the experience come together was really amazing. I also love our series TRAVELocal, which is our idea of the ultimate dinner party as if you were in an apartment in another country for the night. Each month we pick a new country, select a different chef to create a multi-course dinner, and pair cocktails from that nation, along with other details like music and film."
We know you've probably got some sweet secret go-to spots! Care to share a few of your favorite stores?
· Hennessey + Ingalls (214 Wilshire Blvd & 1520 N Cahuenga Blvd): I love this place for their selection of coffee table books, mostly focused on art and architecture, along with their amazing magazine rack with a collection hard to find anywhere else in LA.
· Paperhaus (8406 Beverly Blvd): I'm always working on my iPhone and Macbook, but personally, I think no device at times beats a great notebook and pen. This Beverly Blvd stationery store can be easy to miss from the outside, but once you're in, you'll find a huge collection of office supplies, pens, notebooks and more, that can be hard to track down outside of Japan and Europe.
· Mohawk General Store (multiple locations): Another pioneer of retail in LA, every item is really well curated and has a story. Their staff is super helpful and there are very few places in the city that are better for finding a gift.
· Jules Seltzer & Associates (8833 Beverly Blvd): I wish I could fill my place with just Herman Miller furniture. This place has a really great selection of the brand, along with several other well-selected brands.
Image via Poketo/Facebook
· Poketo (820 E 3rd St): The only problem with Poketo is that it can be tough to walk in without buying something that I didn't know I wanted—whether it's for myself or it's a gift.
· South Willard (8038 W 3rd St): I love this place for their well curated collection of menswear, from lines like Band of Outsiders and Gitman Vintage.
· Apolis (806 E 3rd St): This Arts District pioneer blends high quality basics with a social mission, pioneering a new style of retail in LA.
· Unionmade (189 The Grove Dr & 225 26th St): An outpost of the popular San Fran retailer, carrying an assortment of brands that can be difficult to find in LA.
· Domaine LA (6801 Melrose Ave): This boutique wine shop in West Hollywood has a great selection of independent wines at all price ranges. Their owner Jill is really helpful and incredible at making recommendations for any occasion.
· Spice Station (3819 Sunset Blvd): Few places have the selection of ethnic spices that punch up your cooking like this place. I always find something new when I'm there.
· Intelligentsia (multiple locations): Probably the best coffee shop in LA. It also has a great selection of coffee gear—with everything from top-of-the-line espresso machines to more every day, Chemex brewers—and of course, coffee beans."
What about restaurants—What are the most interesting eateries on your list and why?
"I think LA is one of the most exciting places to eat in the country. Diners are more adventurous than every before, letting chefs take bigger risks. But what makes LA most exciting isn't its fine dining, it's our ethnic hole-in-the wall eateries, serving some of the most amazing Japanese, Thai, Korean and Mexican food anywhere.
For sushi, my favorite more upscale, authentic places are Sushi Gen and Nozawa Bar. I think the ramen at Ndaime Tsujita on Sawtelle in Little Osaka is the best I've ever had. My favorite Italian restaurants are Bestia, Angelini Osteria and Giorgio Baldi. For Thai, it's hard to beat Jitlada for authenticity or Night + Market for unique and bold, incredibly spicy flavors. Few dishes are more delicious to be than the ribs at Ham Ji Park in Koreatown. As for breakfast and brunch, I love going to SQRL, Salt's Cure, Farmshop, and Eggslut. In terms of hidden gems, Yamakase and Totoraku are really special, invitation-only Japanese restaurants on the Westside."
Image via Truffl
What are a few of your favorite LA neighborhoods?
"I love the lifestyle in Venice because it's close to the beach and easy to walk and bike everywhere. There are amazing restaurants and coffee shops, such as Gjelina,Tasting Kitchen and Intelligentsia. These places are filled with tons of creatives from across industries.
I also love Downtown because of the strong community feel of people that live there, as well as how fast it's improving and adding good nightlife spots, seemingly every month. For instance, Honeycut and the Ace Hotel's rooftop are both amazing restaurants."
· Truffl [Official Site]
· The 38 Essential LA Shops, Winter 2014 [Racked]