okay, i'm going to go out of order a little here so i can share the fun time we had for the old lady's birthday dinner. although our tradition is to take her to her most favorite pasta place on her birthday, the hub suggested switching it up a little this year. she was game for anything, and especially after i told her i'd still take her for that pasta another day.
after doing a little research via yelp, he made a reservation for us to head out to west hollywood and try something i'd actually been interested in anyway...jessica biel's (aka mrs. justin timberlake) new venture, au fudge.
so basically, this is a place that's meant for adults to be able to enjoy a nice meal (and cocktails, if you're so inclined) while having a fun spot for the kiddies to hang out and play. the kid-friendliness of the joint started outside on the patio, where there were adorable little benches for the littles to sit while waiting for a table.
the first thing you see when you go inside is the little shop, where you can pick up all sorts of fun stuff for kids and kids at heart.
as we waited to be seated, the bean cautiously made her way inside to find the kids' playroom. she was warmly greeted by kylie, whose sole purpose at au fudge is to entertain and/or supervise the kids. and she ran right back out to ask me if it was okay for her to join kylie in a craft activity. i went inside to set up the parent account and got a look around at the super cute space.
these stairs led up to the treehouse, which the bean was pretty anxious to check out. i handed her my phone to take pictures up there, and here's what she came back with:
and that's pretty much all i saw of her for the next couple of hours. i headed out to the dining room to join the hub and the old lady, who had just gotten carded for the first time and very willingly handed over her valid ID.
this entire restaurant is just so cute. it was like sitting inside a dollhouse.
the first order of business, of course, was to peruse the cocktail menu. tiffany, our server, brought over some crudités and dip to snack on while we debated what to order first.
the hub opted for the "old fashioned fawn," a mixture of bourbon, moscovado sugar and bitters.
as for me, i went with tiffany's suggestion of the "first base." this contained vodka, lemon, muddled strawberry, thyme and sparkling wine. light and refreshing.
the old lady opted for "the little prince," which was bourbon, lemon, honey, bee pollen (??) and lavender. i'm now confused as to whether that photo of the hub's drink is actually hers, because i was apparently so enthralled with my own beverage that i missed taking a picture of one of the drinks. oh well. cheers!
the menu offered a lot of appetizers and small plates. we decided to pick out a handful of the ones that sounded good to share.
while we waited for it to arrive at the table, we headed into the shop to see what there was to buy. i'm always all about a souvenir, you know.
we were mesmerized by the bakery display case for a few minutes.
most of the merchandise was geared towards little kids. especially ones whose parents have deep pockets. there were $275 tutu dresses and $75 bento boxes and toy sets that i didn't even check prices on.
want a gigantic $40 ring pop? they've got 'em.
these slap bracelets were $140. ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY DOLLARS FOR A GUMBALL MACHINE TRINKET. WUT.
and trucker hats for $45.
we gave up on the shop and headed back to the table, where we found that plates of adorably presented nibbles were arriving. i mean, how cute are these deviled egg-lets? these were mainly for the hub and the bean, because neither the old lady nor i are fans of hardboiled eggs. but still...so cute.
corn "lollipops," slathered with butter and parmesan.
the soft pretzel bites were served with a little bathtub full of delicious cheese sauce. pretty appropriate, since i would totally take a bath in that stuff.
and seriously, we couldn't resist ordering the rainbow pasta with "magical butter." turns out it was a basic garlic and herb butter sauce, but that's okay. the old lady devoured it.
hummus and pita, which sounds boring but was really tasty.
the chicken nuggets were served in this cute ceramic fast food-esque container with a fun assortment of dipping sauces.
mini sliders. tiny, tasty tidbits.
truffled grilled cheese sticks.
as we munched happily, the hub decided to get up and check on the bean. we literally hadn't seen nor heard from her since she plunked her happy little ass in that playroom, and we thought maybe it was a good idea to feed her something.
although it's not usually allowed, the bean got the green light to take a plate of food in there so that they could continue on with their game of uno or old maid or whatever they were so busy doing. after all, the bean was the only kid in there at the time. the hub told us that kylie had mentioned that it was a nice change for her to do activities geared towards older kids since she often found herself basically just chasing around a bunch of 4-year-olds. and she came out briefly to show us the dreamcatcher she'd made.
as she disappeared back behind the door, tiffany arrived with our second round of drinks. the old lady hadn't really loved the bourbon-based drink she had first, so she opted for the mojito-like "mo mamma." this was much more her speed.
the hub decided to try the "black manhattan" - whiskey, chocolate chili bitters and sea salt. yikes.
having plowed through all of those appetizers and small plates, we decided to order a steak and the vegan caesar salad to split between the three of us. i'm not usually all about vegan anything, but i have to say that salad was really, really tasty (as was the steak, obviously, because we gobbled it up before i remembered to take a picture of it).
we ordered the grilled salmon for the bean, who finally came out to join us at the table.
she disappeared one last time as the table was cleared and dessert menus came out to play.
the old lady and i decided to take a bathroom break and got to check out the back end of the place. there were old school arcade games and a photo booth back there, which we meant to try but forgot.
the restroom was super cute, of course.
it was stocked with honest company products and a full range of diapers at the changing table.
when we got back to the table, everyone was waiting for us to serenade the birthday girl with a lovely dessert board.
from left to right: berry cobbler, churro ice cream sliders, and s'mores dip. we each took a slider and wolfed it down before it could melt any more. and since kylie had told the bean that she'd never had them we sent a plate of them into the playroom for them to share.
and then i dug right into that s'mores dip. yummy.
the check arrived with little pieces of peppermint fudge for each of us.
on the way out, we caught a glimpse of the treehouse from down below.
and then we took one last photo before getting back into the car for the long ride home.
oh, one thing i forgot to mention - childcare isn't free. it's $15/hour, and that includes whatever activities they're doing in the room at the time. but it was totally worth every penny, since the bean was more than happy to hang out in there the entire time, leaving us to enjoy a nice meal together without any complaining or whining about how bored she was or asking if it was time to go home yet. hell, we could barely tear her out of there - she finally left for good when childcare hours ended for the night.
when you look at the yelp reviews for au fudge, you get quite a mixed bag of emotions ranging from super ecstatic to extremely disappointed. but it's only been open for less than two months, and of course every new restaurant needs a bit of fine-tuning. we had a great experience from beginning to end - the host who welcomed us was super friendly and happily welcomed the old lady with a birthday greeting and party hats for all of us. our server was accommodating, helpful and always available to refill drinks and bring anything we needed. we enjoyed pretty much everything we ordered to eat and drink. and of course, the childcare staff was wonderful with the bean. part of that could maybe be attributed to the fact that it was a wednesday evening, but it wasn't empty - there were several other tables of patrons around us too.
i'm already trying to round up groups of friends to go back for a brunch date, and the bean has already asked to go back soon. and maybe if we're lucky and pick just the right day, who knows...maybe i'll have a JT sighting and check off another bucket list item. we'll see!