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Escape to a winter wonderland of indulgence at Après at W Westwood

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This chilly weather we've been experiencing in LA conjures up yearnings for some toasty treats and yummy cocktails to warm you up. And if you could do it all by a cozy fire, even better. Luckily there is the perfect place to do all this. From now until January 5, you can experience a winter wonderland of pure indulgence at the W in Westwood's new Après. They've converted their outside pool area WET into the Veuve Clicquot Après Ski Chalet, in honor of the opening of W Verbier, the first W Alpine Hotel and Residences just opened in Switzerland this December. I went to check it out last weekend, and I was in heaven. It really felt like I had escaped to a resort in the snow-capped mountains, nestled in the W's backyard, steam even coming off the swimming pool. Nice lounge music playing in the background with modern fire pits sets the scene for the perfect night to wrap yourself in yumminess.

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My friend and I were greeted by the perfect host, the Backyard's bartender extraordinaire Dustin Scheetz. He took all the necessary steps to ensure we were warm, as it was quite chilly out, but we were comfortably cozy in the cabana after Dustin turned on the heat lamp and brought us warm, fuzzy, white blankets. But the best thing he did to warm us up was mix what were probably the most delicious cocktails I have ever enjoyed.

Since we were going to start off with the Savory Fondue, I decided to whet my palate first with one of the Veuve Clicquot Champagne Chillers. It's also great that Veuve just happens to be my favorite bubbly. I went for the Burgundy Rose, made with Veuve Clicquot, pomegranate juice and lemon sour; it was exquisite. Dustin really knows how to perfectly balance his cocktails so all the ingredients come together seamlessly as they were meant to. This was the perfect cocktail to pique my taste buds and get them ready for more.

We were more than ready to dive into the Jako-Dip Savory Fondue made of goat cheese, white wine, and pumpkin purée...absolutely divine. It was a tough choice between that, Miss Swiss with gruyére cheese, sherry & garlic, and the Dive Bar with cheddar, IPA & bacon. You can't go wrong with any of them. It all depends on what your taste buds are in the mood for, of course. All the Savory Fondues come with bread, salami, baby tomatoes, broccoli, grilled asparagus, and bread sticks, all for just $16 for two people. My friend and I were in pure bliss at this point, and it was only going to get better, because next up was the Sweet Fondue.

To switch gears, Dustin brought me his wonderfully created dessert cocktail, Candyland, made with peppermint schnapps, creme de cacao, simple syrup, half n' half, and chocolate peppermint. Imagine indulging in a York peppermint patty in a cocktail, which is pretty much what it tasted like, in a beautiful white cocktail with a chocolate rim. The ingredients may sound too sweet for a cocktail, but I'm telling you , Dustin really has the magic touch and knows how to perfectly marry all the ingredients without making any too overwhelming. My friend had the Pumpkin Pie Martini mixed with cinnamon whiskey, pumpkin liquor, vanilla syrup, butter shots liquor, half n' half with a graham cracker crust, and it was equally delicious. It was like a slice of pumpkin pie in a glass with a little kick. She also said it was the most delicious cocktail she had ever had. Our sweet tooths were already satisfied by this point, but they were in for so much more.

For the Sweet Fondue, you have your choice of Sweet Hot with dark chocolate, pink peppercorns, and Himalayan salt, Snowflake with white chocolate, toasted coconut, and marshmallow fluff, Nut N'Honey with milk chocolate, peanut butter caramel, and honey, or the Triple Black Diamond, with all three swirled together. Of course, we had to go for that one...all I could say is wow! This was one of the most decadent, heavenly treats my palate has ever experienced, a swirl of rich ingredients all in one. And you get marshmallows, strawberries, graham crackers, dried pineapple, and Oreos to dip into it.

As if we hadn't already indulged enough, we still had to experience the S'mores Bar (for research purposes, of course). For just $9 a person, you get dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, graham crackers, and housemade marshmallows, including regular, chocolate, and strawberry, along with your very own little fire to toast the marshmallows over. As my friend said, it's like glamping. Camping never looked or tasted this good. ;) If you want a warm drink, Dustin also hand crafts those. You can either have the Hot Apple Pie with tuaca vanilla citrus liqueur, or the Cinnamon Toast mixed with cinnamon whiskey, vanilla syrup, half n' half, sprinkled ground cinnamon and served like a latte, which goes perfectly with the S'mores.

You really have to head over to the W in Westwood and experience all of this for yourself, if you're not already on your way. Après will only be there until January 5, so don't waste any more time, because chances are after you go once, you'll want to go back for more. The W hotel in Westwood is located at 930 Hilgard Avenue in the heart of UCLA country, Westwood. Visit http://www.wlosangeles.com/ for more information, and I'll see you there, because I will definitely be returning. ;)

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