From Malibu to the Hamptons, an insider's guide to hot parties, clothes, cocktails, even cupcakes.
► BEST Summer Dining
Sadie (1638 N. Las Palmas Ave., Hollywood): The former Les Deux Cafe -- the legendary Hollywood refuge where Madonna used to hang in the '90s -- has re-emerged as a den of elevated New American cuisine, courtesy of consulting chef Marc Gold (Eva). Names such as Piers Morgan, Kristen Bell and Danny McBride now dine under the expansive enclosed patio's bistro lights.
Tar & Roses (602 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica): CAA's Jim Toth and wife Reese Witherspoon recently dropped by the brick-walled, wood-floored patio of this small plates-oriented charmer opened by chef Andrew Kirschner, who drew notice behind the stoves at the nearby restaurant Wilshire. Order the shellfish pot or anything from the wood-burning oven.
Cliff's Edge (3626 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake): For years, this hidden-away spot was known for its gorgeous courtyard, easily the most atmospheric on the eastside, and its subpar -- at best -- food. Enter Benjamin Bailly, a young toque who made his name at Petrossian, who has put forth an ambitious California-eclectic menu. Ed Helms and Thom Yorke, among others, approve.
Byron at the Surf Club (183 Edgemere St., Montauk): Byron is Aussie chef Chris Rendell's entry into the manic Hamptons fray. It's located inside the groovy Surf Club hotel (which P. Diddy was said to have attempted to buy earlier this year). Alexander Skarsgard, Calvin Klein, and Gerard Butler have stayed there, and model/artist/DJ Alexandra Richards has taken to the decks on occasion. The sophisticated cuisine leans heavily on seafood, with Asian accents.
Topping Rose House (One Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike, Bridgehampton): This seven-room (15 more planned) luxury boutique hotel, spa and veggie-focused restaurant, courtesy of co-owner Tom Colicchio, is expected to open late summer in a beautiful but-in-need-of-rescue Greek Revival 1842 mansion.
► BEST Trips
Tuscany, Italy: The industry-favored region -- where George Stephanopoulos and Ali Wentworth are about to travel -- will see the July opening of Castello di Casole (rooms from around $795, 53031 Casole d'Elsa, Localita Querceto), set on a millennium-old, 4,200-acre estate 40 minutes south of Florence. Once the home of director Luchino Visconti, the villa has been lovingly restored as a 41-suite hotel, where the olive oil is grown on-site and the spa is located in the original wine cellar.
Cuzco, Peru: What could be a better balance of luxury and repentance for misbehaving celebrities than a five-star former convent? Located near the heart of Cuzco -- which recently has drawn such visitors as Bono and Owen Wilson -- Orient Express' new 55-suite Palacio Nazarenas (rooms from $595, Plaza Nazarenas) boasts a serene cloistered courtyard, oxygen-enriched guestrooms and a restaurant where all ingredients are sourced from within 60 miles.
Istanbul, Turkey: Since Ian Schrager opened his 78-room Edition Hotel (rooms from around $360, 136 Buyukdere Caddesi) last year, the calm modernist property with bronze and gold touches has drawn Diane Kruger, Brad Pitt and James Cameron. Expect more names to check in and enjoy its Cipriani restaurant and ESPA pampering center -- Istanbul has become an "it" filming location, with Skyfall, Taken 2 and Argo shooting there.
Palos Verdes: The 3-year-old luxury Terranea Resort (rooms from $350, 6610 Palos Verdes Drive) -- with 582 Mediterranean-style rooms and a nine-hole golf course on a secluded bluff less than 30 miles south of L.A. -- has opened a new Asian eatery, bashi. Don't miss the chicken dumplings with sparkling sake; the menu is by chef Bruce Nguyen, who hails from Nobu.
Laguna Beach: Looking directly out over Main Beach, the charming 70-room Inn at Laguna Beach (rooms from $399, 211 North Coast Highway) recently unveiled a multimillion-dollar, environmentally sensitive renovation with bamboo-wood furniture and surf photos on the walls. (Make sure to request an ocean-facing room, not just for the views but for the quiet.) … Head to the nearby Three Seventy Common Kitchen + Drink (370 Glenneyre St.) for its high-end American gastropub menu.
Santa Barbara: Oyster lovers en route to Santa Barbara should make a pit stop in Ventura and visit The Jolly Oyster (911 San Pedro St.). Think Malibu's Neptune's Net with picnic tables in a rustic BYOB beachside setting. … Located in the historic 1925 La Arcada complex in Santa Barbara, taqueria and tapas restaurant Cielito (1114 State St.) has drawn names like Katy Perry to its raw bar and house-made tequila infusions. … Out in Los Olivos in the Santa Ynez Valley, brothers Matt and Jeff Nichols, former owners of Brothers Restaurant at Mattei's Tavern, have opened American comfort food venue Sides Hardware and Shoes (2375 Alamo Pintado Ave.). Sip keg-stored Central Coast wine on tap in a 1901 building.
► BEST VIP Parties
Los Angeles: Most of L.A.'s long-standing private summer parties all happen on Fourth of July: Ron and Kelly Meyer's bash in Malibu features a fireworks barge after dark. Guests have included Arianna Huffington, jeweler Loree Rodkin and Courteney Cox. … At Juicy Couture's Pamela Skaist-Levy's party in the Malibu Colony, she and director husband Jeff welcome denizens of the fashion and music worlds (Duran Duran's John Taylor is married to her Juicy partner Gela Nash-Taylor.) … Some of Skaist-Levy's guests hop across the street to the home of Gersh's Leslie Siebert and her Lighthouse Entertainment manager husband Stephen for their annual tennis tournament. … TV producer Nely Galan, former president of Telemundo, invites friends every year to her beyond-colorful (yellow, orange and pink) Venice canal house. Guests have a prime view of the annual regatta and rubber-duck race.
The Hamptons: The annual Watermill Summer Benefit, established by director-playwright Robert Wilson 19 years ago to help fund the Byrd Hoffman Watermill Center, draws the art crowd (Cindy Sherman), society folk (Katie Lee, Bianca Jagger) and entertainment types (Alan Cummings, David Bowie, Rufus Wainwright). The July 28 event will have 70 lots for sale of work by emerging artists, plus flaming torches and Tibetan gongs, and all manner of performance artists. … The Peggy Siegal Co.'s hot-ticket Hamptons screenings pack in the likes of Russell Simmons, Tory Burch, Lorne Michaels and Julian Schnabel. Here's the film program for summer 2012, most held at private Hamptons houses: Bachelorette (Aug. 4), starring Kirsten Dunst, Little Birds (Aug. 11), Arbitrage, with star Richard Gere on hand (Aug. 12), and the Jake Gyllenhaal starrer End of Watch (Aug. 19).
► BEST Cocktails
The Deli Juice The new concoction at Mediterranean Mezze (401 N. La Cienega) has gin, dill pickle (we kid you not), pepper and mustard seed.
The Cucumber Cooler At live-music Santa Monica bar The Charleston (2460 Wilshire Blvd.), bartenders are mixing up Hendrick's gin, sliced cucumber, basil leaves, a sprig of rosemary, fresh lime and honey syrup.
The Irish Maid Marcos Tello, the mixologist at revamped Tom Bergin's (840 S. Fairfax Ave.), makes it with mint, cucumber pressed with the main ingredient Bushmills, lime and sugar, served on the rocks.
Fresh Cucumber Martini Every summer, Ammo (1155 N. Highland Ave.) revives its market-driven fresh cucumber martini with Hendrick's gin, cucumbers, cucumber juice, lemon juice and mint.
► BEST Getaway Bag
Leather Jackie tote by Smythson, $995, at Barneys New York, Beverly Hills.