This past weekend my mother was in town, so I've been doing more shopping, cooking and cleaning than usual. The dinner parties were a blast, but it's no wonder I could barely get up for work once Monday morning rolled around. I was beat. So it seemed the patron saint of entertaining stepped in when I was invited to a dinner hosted by KitchIt on Monday evening.

There are two things I've recently promised myself I would do more of: read things that inspire me and aren't the newspaper and go to Oakland.

Now open for just about three weeks, Maximiliano in Highland Park brings old school Italian and new school design to the slowly gentrifying nabe.

Food is rarely just food these days. Whether it's about where the ingredients come from, how long it takes to prepare or how much of it ends up in the trash after dinner service, dining out in San Francisco often involves a choice bigger than simply Thai or Italian (or Eritrean, Japanese, Turkish, Venezuelen...).

Here it is at last, Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio's long awaited ink., set to open tomorrow night in Los Angeles. While Angelenos have been enjoying Voltaggio's sandwiches next door at the more casual ink.sack for the last couple of months, this is his more upscale venture in fine dining (he previously helmed the stoves at The Bazaar and The Dining Room in The Langham in Pasadena.

On a somewhat depressing strip of Pico Blvd near Mid-City comes this bright and eco-friendly coffee joint. Paper or Plastik opened in December but has been a work in progress ever since, with an outdoor garden and work space to be completed in another month or so.

L.A.-based design firm Spacecraft has ruled the Hollywood club scene for the last half decade. If you've drank somewhere in Hollywood in the last few years, chances are you were drinking in a space designed by Kris Keith and his cohorts, from their updated take on a 50s diner at Kitchen 24 to the art dec- inspired delux to the low-key subway tile-inflected Bowery bar.

Over a month ago, the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Institute of Architects announced voting was open to the public for the annual Restaurant Design Awards People's Choice nominees. At the whirlwind Dwell on Design conference last week, the AIA|LA announced both the jury selections as well as the winners chosen by the public.

One glance at the intersection of Church & Market Streets and it's clear something's different. Gone is the strobe-lit hole that was Bar On Church and in its place stands Churchill, a new earth-toned bar that feels like a cushy military barracks. We caught up with local designer extraordinaire Lauren Geremia — who also styled Double Dutch and Bloodhound — to see how she brought this new spot (that's already packed nightly) to life.

We're not the only ones asking you to vote on restaurant design. Consider it a double dose of democracy – the annual Restaurant Design Awards are back and asking the public to vote for a winner. Last week a panel of judges, including architect Dean Larkin, chef Mark Peel, and PR wiz Haily Zaki got together to review this year's candidates and select the nominees. The Jury winners will be announced June 24th at the AIA|LA Design Conference. As in previous years, the AIA|LA has opened up voting for the People's Choice award winner. The polls are open now until June 12th.

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